Closed Circuit Movie Poster Image

Closed Circuit



Disappointing English thriller has some violence, drugs.
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Thriller
  • Release Year: 2013
  • Running Time: 96 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The movie takes place in a world of corruption at the highest and most powerful levels, where an individual has no hope of changing anything -- and, indeed, may suffer the consequences for even trying. But at the very last moment, a chorus of voices may hope to chime in and be heard.

Positive role models

The movie focuses on two London barristers (lawyers) who try to do the right thing, even in the face of impossible odds and rampant corruption. They risk their lives to save a young boy, and they try to tell the truth, even risking their lives. One of the barristers is a woman who shows great confidence and competence, even under considerable pressure.


There's a huge explosion during the opening moments in which 120 people are said to have died. During the movie's final stretch, the main characters are chased and attacked. Two men try to choke the heroine. The first time, she smashes a glass in her attacker's face and bites him; some blood is shown. The second time, she's rescued when a character bashes her attacker in the head. A 14-year-old boy is briefly in danger. The hero lives through a car crash.


The two main characters are former lovers; in one scene, viewers see flashbacks to them dancing and kissing. Otherwise, they keep each other at a distance (until the very end, when they start flirting again).


"F--k" is used a few times, plus "s--t," "prick," and "Jesus" (as an exclamation).

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

A minor character is said to be a heroin dealer. He's shown suffering and sick from using prison heroin (which is cut and not as strong as pure heroin, viewers are told). Some secondary characters smoke cigarettes, and the male lead is shown smoking one cigarette.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Closed Circuit is an English crime thriller that focuses for a while on talking and discovering information and then has a big chase-and-escape sequence at the climax. There's some fighting and a little blood when a woman is attacked and fights back. There's also a lethal explosion that kills 120 people and a car crash. "F--k" is used a few times, but, overall, language is sparse. A flashback shows kissing, and there's some flirting. One minor character is said to be a heroin dealer; he's shown suffering from using the drug. Some characters smoke cigarettes. The movie's tone/structure -- which asks audiences to think heavily during the first two-thirds and then turn off their brains during the last act -- makes it seem unlikely to appeal to a broad audience.

What's the story?

With the death of a prominent English barrister, Martin Rose (Eric Bana) is asked to take over a huge case: A potential terrorist has been arrested in conjunction with a bombing that killed 120 people in London. According to the rules, Martin isn't allowed to speak to the special advisor on the case, Claudia Simmons-Howe (Rebecca Hall), and they both decide to hide the fact that they were once lovers. Claudia is given secret information that could jeopardize the security of the country and may only be discussed in a closed court session. And, in his investigation, Martin discovers a connection between the terrorist and MI5; he also realizes that this discovery is what got his predecessor killed. Can Martin survive long enough to expose the truth?

Is it any good?

The first two-thirds of the movie almost make it worth the trouble, but the final third is so dissatisfying that it can't be recommended. CLOSED CIRCUIT has been advertised as being from the makers of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and, for a while, it seems as though it might be the same kind of intelligent moviemaking that builds drama through discreet conversations and the passing of crucial information. As written by Steven Knight and directed by John Crowley, the characters seem smart, and interactions between them reveal interesting ideas, as well as unspoken tensions.
But then you get the feeling that the filmmakers suddenly decided to switch their movie from a smart English thriller to a dumb American one. It happens in the third act, when the chase scenes begin, as well as the face-offs, attempted killings, and escapes. These are all handled with startling clumsiness and an extreme lack of logic. The bad guys are given too much power, and it never makes sense when they fail to use this power. The good guys simply luck out.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about Closed Circuit's violence. Does the attacking, chasing, and attempted killing make sense in this story? Why or why not?
  • Is this a pessimistic story? Do you believe that huge entities can become so corrupt that they'd kill to protect their secrets? Are they the equivalent of bullies? Can normal people stop such a thing?
  • Are the main characters role models? Are they fighting for freedom or the truth? What's the difference?
  • Is Claudia a positive role model for women?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:August 28, 2013
DVD/Streaming release date:January 7, 2014
Cast:Ciaran Hinds, Eric Bana, Rebecca Hall
Director:John Crowley
Studio:Focus Features
Run time:96 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:language and brief violence

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What parents and kids say

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Teen, 16 years old Written bymusicforver January 6, 2014

Closed Circuit

What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Adult Written bykipwalker44 November 7, 2014

British spy thriller is teen-friendly, but bland and forgettable

What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing