For, Aug. 30, 2013

Government-paranoia films often push the parameters too far, so that the corruption being investigated appears to go all the way up, with tentacles in every direction. How can a hero blow the whistle on criminal activity if everyone, and I mean everyone, is involved?

That was once what we might call a far-fetched plot, but in this day and age of NSA spyware, perhaps not so much. And apparently it's no different in England than it is in America … according to the movies anyway.

"Closed Circuit" begins with a terrorist explosion that kills many innocents and then moves forward in time to the trial of the lone survivor of the terrorist cell responsible. Or is he a terrorist at all?

The film also deals with a form of "justice" in Great Britain that apparently allows for two defense attorneys when government secrets are involved. One hears the sensitive evidence in closed chambers; the other defends his client in open court. Prim, proper, stiff-upper-lip Rebecca Hall plays the former; scruffy, arrogant Eric Bana plays the latter.

They are not allowed to communicate in any form once the trial begins and they must declare that there is no compromising relationship, but, of course, it turns out they had an affair that broke up Bana's marriage, so there goes that theory.

As the complicated plot unfolds it becomes more and more implausible ... well, depending on audience members' level of paranoia, I guess … but a good cast, which includes Jim Broadbent, Julia Stiles, Ciaran Hinds and Riz Ahmed, helps a lot.

And the direction, by John Crowley, is also very good, keeping things moving at a steady clip so as to distract us from our own logical conclusions. But the script by Steve Knight has lots of holes.

Still, if you're looking for a thriller to while away an open evening, you could do worse. "Closed Circuit" is rated R for some scattered f-words.



The big Hollywood film this week is the R-rated "Riddick," a second sequel in the dark, futuristic "Chronicles of Riddick" franchise about an ex-con (Vin Diesel) battling evil Necromongers.

On the independent/artier end of the spectrum, two new films open at the Tower Theater, the comedy-drama "Prince Avalanche" (R), with Paul Ruud and Emile Hirsch spending the summer together as disparate road workers in a remote area, and the off-the-wall haunted house spoof "Hell Baby" (R), from the creators of "Reno 911."

Also playing locally are the sequel "The Ultimate Life" (PG), with Peter Fonda heading a new cast for a story similar to its predecessor, "The Ultimate Gift," and "Instructions Not Included" (PG-13, in Spanish with English subtitles), a vehicle for Mexican writer/director/star Eugenio Derbez, about a womanizer who finds himself in charge of the baby daughter he didn't know about.