Reel Critics: 'Circuit' is James Bond for real

The producers of "Closed Circuit" made a mark in espionage films with their Oscar nominee "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy." For their new film, they hired veteran screenwriter Steven Knight, the creator of the gritty underworld of "Eastern Promises" and the Oscar-nominated "Dirty Pretty Things."

"Closed Circuit" takes a very intelligent look at the British spy thriller genre. A bomb explodes in a crowded market in London. A terrorist cell renting a back-alley garage is identified as the perpetrator. The members all perish in the attack, leaving only the owner of the garage to face murder charges in a special government court.

The first lawyer for the accused commits suicide. The plot focuses on two new lawyers appointed to represent the vilified defendant. They are played with perfect pitch by Eric Bana ("Munich") and Rebecca Hall ("Vicky Cristina Barcelona"). Together they amplify the tensions and fears that drive the story.

There are no hints of James Bond-style action or nonsense. Uncovering the truth is a cerebral process. A brooding, chilly atmosphere pervades everything on screen. What unfolds is closer to reality than anything you'll see in the big-budget action films that pretend to be real.


Nothing short in 'Short Term 12'

There's something about indie drama "Short Term 12" that feels so honest, like these aren't characters in a movie but real people you have known, or want to comfort.

Written and directed by Destin Daniel Cretton, the title comes from the name of a group home for troubled kids. We only learn about a few, but they touch our hearts.

There's Marcus (Keith Stanfield), who's dreading that he must soon live in the big wide world when he turns 18. A teen from a more privileged background, Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever), has a wicked sense of humor when she's not being hostile.

At the film's heart is Grace (Brie Larson, in a stunning performance), one of the center's counselors. Her keen empathy for these kids is genuine, only matched by her boyfriend/fellow counselor Mason (John Gallagher Jr.), whose generous nature makes you just want to hug him.

We learn they are so good with their charges because they too have come from a place of isolation and abuse. Grace and Mason are amazing because we feel how much they care and try to help the kids through some very raw pain. Yet in the privacy of their own home, they have trouble reaching that same level of emotional intimacy.

"Short Term 12" is remarkable in its quiet ability to shake us up and offer us hope, in a very small way, for the resilience of even the most deeply wounded human spirit.


JOHN DEPKO is a retired senior investigator for the Orange County public defender's office. He lives in Costa Mesa and works as a licensed private investigator.

SUSANNE PEREZ lives in Costa Mesa and is an executive assistant for a company in Irvine.

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