^ Eric Bana and Rebecca Hall in James Crowley’s “Closed Circuit”

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A deft thinking man’s thriller from the team of producers behind “Tinker, Taylor, Soldier, Spy.” Clearly, they know intrigue, though “Closed Circuit” is less of a brain boggle than the 2011 Cold War chess game based on the John Le Clair novel. It’s never a street brawl either, though plenty of blood is spilt (but mostly off screen). Based on real events, London is rocked by a massive terrorist attack that kills over 100 innocents. The means of mayhem is nothing special: a truck full of explosives is parked in front of an open market and triggered suicide style. What is special, is that the mastermind is so easily caught.

The rub comes during the staging of the trial. The Crown, for security reasons, wants a closed hearing due to sensitive ‘secret evidence’ that could put the public safety at risk–or so that’s the line being towed by the Attorney General, played by a slimmed down James Broadbent as an avuncular and creepy puppet master. As the trial gears up, a nosey defense attorney (James Lowe) commits suicide by jumping from a tall building. His replacements don’t buy the unhappy gay story circulating in the rumor mill and begin to poke around too, but they have other challenges to contend with : Martin (Eric Bana) and Claudia (Rebecca Hall) have been romantically involved. It wrecked his marriage, and if a trace of their involvement is evident, they will be booted from the trial. To complicate matters further, the two can’t communicate during the closed session segment of the trial, and only Claudia, as the Special Advocate with classified clearance, can look at the secret evidence.

It sounds more convoluted on paper than it does on screen. Director James Crowley (“Boy A”), artfully imbues tension and peril into every scene. When Claudia is presented the secret evidence by Nazrul (Riz Ahmed), a boyish agent with dangerously dark features, she questions how he got into her sealed office. He calmly tells her the door was open when he got there, but she knows that’s not true, and from that moment on, both she and Martin know that MI5 is likely involved and that a cover up or conspiracy could be in play.

Bana and Hall play off each other well, effusively selling the integrity of their government attorneys as well as their contemplative introspect and resolve when on the lam. You’re so ingrained to their thinking and plight, there are times, especially with Bana’s Martin, that you begin to question whether he’s gone over the top and his acumen has slipped a gear and fallen into pure paranoia. As with the Bourne films, there’s constant surveillance everywhere (Crowley uses the security cam POV a lot and its one many layered meanings within the film’s title), and the busy streets forever provide a mecca for unassuming pedestrians and loiterers to leap out as would-be assassins.

Much to Crowley’s credit, he handles the many twists and turns sharply and clearly even as the film clicks along, agile and spritely under the menacing pall. The editing is tightc– and key, as are the bit players like Broadbent — and Ahmed, who with artful ease sells both sides of his loyal foot soldier willing to do anything to protect the Crown. Also quite good is Anne-Marie Duff as a transportation secretary; not so Julia Stiles, though, in the flimsy role of a New York Times reporter working the London desk. She further underscores the Bourne-like essence, though “Closed Circuit” stands up on its own and rightfully so.

Crowley has toiled at his craft for some time in relative obscurity; “Closed Circuit” is about to change all that. Let’s just hope Hollywood doesn’t change him.

—- Tom Meek / Meek at the Movies



^ John Connolly : the day was his

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The Deutsches Altenheim, on Centre Street in West Roxbury, put itself center-stage in Boston’s mayor race by hosting a “stand Up for seniors’ forum. Because there are 12 candidates in the action, the sponsors divided the field into two parts. On Saturday over 100 seniors at the “old ones’ home” — which is what “Altenheim” means in German — the home was founded by Boston’s then German immigrant community — heard from Dan Conley, Felix Arroyo, Marty Walsh, Bill Walczak, David Wyatt, and Rob Consalvo. Yesterday, an even larger crowd, maybe 150, listened to — and questioned — the other six Mayor hopefuls. Between them there was much difference, both in positions advocated and in command of city governance.

The day belonged to John Connolly, who lives in West Roxbury and grew up in Roslindale, and to Charlotte Golar-Richie, who delivered her most authoritative Forum argument to date. In response to a question about quality of life in the neighborhood, she emphasized her focus on the safety of women, which also is, as she noted, an issue for seniors, most of whom are female.

She spoke with unforgettable detail about seniors who find themselves plagued with scams, because older people often save their money and credit rather than spend it : “late at night they may answer the phone and respond to a voice and give their credit card number. then  the credit card bill arrives with unwarranted charges. There should be a way to get those charges removed !”

Golar-Richie also put forth suggestions for improving women’s safety on public transportation.


^ Charlotte Golar-Richie : her most authorotative Forum performance yet

Still, as effective and on point as Golar-Richie spoke, John Connolly assumed command of the Forum. Confident in speaking on home ground, to voters who know him a well as he knows them, he first addressed a question about scams that plague elderly people more than most, that “it’s hard to block phone numbers because they can always switch to another and then another. This is a problem of outreach and awareness. Seniors are often unaware, living often in isolation. we should use the city’s elderly commission to increase outreach.” Given a question about broken sidewalks being a serious hazard for older people, he responded with impressive command of detail : “this sis partly a public utilities issue. The phone company and electric dig up the streets, their contractors do, and then they don;t pout it back the way it it was. we need to set city standards, a check list, for such digs and see that the contractors adhere to them.

Connolly had more to say on the streets and sidewalks issue (which though hardly epic, are matters that every city resident is plagued by all the time). Given a question about the difficulty that seniors have in crossing a main street before the stoplights change, Connolly said, “we need to do a thorough streets and intersections assessment, so that when we design an intersection, we take into account pedestrians as well as motorists.”

And then came a moment that candidates hope they will have. A question was asked about money to keep the West Roxbury library open on weekends : is there the money to do so, or not ? Connolly said that funding for the library was tenuous at best; that it’s always low on the list of funding priorities. Candidate Charles Clemons — often given to blanket assertions that sound good — smiled widely. “Of course the money is there.” he roared, in the loud voice of an ex-policeman (which he is) “The city just paid 13 million dollars to buy a particular building in downtown that was assessed for six million !”


^ Charles Clemons : one blanket assertion too many

It was Connolly’s chance. “It’s two different things, Charles. Libraries and the staff salaries are paid out of the city’s spending budget. Capital purchases are made from a different budget, the capital budget. You can’t use the capital budget to pay salaries or open libraries, it’s against the law.”

This is what winning candidates show that they can do. And though there was much well-informed discussion thereafter, by John Barros especially — Golar-Richie had had to leave the Forum to get to another event, and her comments were missed — of streets, snow removal, and phone call blocking, the big moment was Connolly’s, and the Altenheim voters knew it.

There was one other dramatic moment. Someone asked candidate Chares Yancey why he is running both for Mayor and for re-election to his city council seat, when all the other councillor candidates in the Mayor’s race were giving up their council seats ? It was a question many voters have wanted to ask. Why, indeed ?

Yancey — who ceaselessly repeated his mantra “My name is Charles Yancey, and i’m running for Mayor” — said, “i’m glad you asked that question.”

No one laughed, but…

He had an explanation, too ; “I am providing the voters of my district a choice. If I am re-elected councillor and am elected mayor, i will make my choice then, at that time.”

This, from the candidate who over and over again touted that “I have 30 years of experience in city budgets, more than any other candidate in the race.” Maybe experience isn’t an unmixed blessing.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere