Eric Bana – Australian Actor Electrifies with Brit Spy Thriller Closed Circuit
by Brad Balfour
Melbourne-based actor Eric Bana has played his share of heroes and villains. Initially thanks to his rugged good looks and naturally buff physique, he’s been cast as a heroic good guy in The Hulk or Munich even as a romantic lead Henry in the sci-fi thriller The Time Traveler’s Wife. But his cool and detached demeanor led him to more morally ambiguous even dastardly parts such as the assassin father Erik Heller in Hanna and the renegade Romulan Nero in JJ Abrams’s rebooted Star Trek.
Now the 45 year-old actor is playing a character that lands right in the middle – a morally ambiguous yet familiar place for most of us – in the British legal thriller Closed Circuit. Barrister Martin Rose wants to be a properly steadfast defense lawyer and hero yet finds himself trapped between the ideal and the politically expedient.
The film opens with a suicide bomber attack on a major London market which kills dozens; later on a subject is captured. When the barrister handling the case supposedly commits suicide, Rose (Bana) is appointed to replace him as the defense counsel for the accused heroin-addicted perpetrator Farroukh Erdogan (Denis Moschitto).
And Martin’s colleague and former lover Claudia (Rebecca Hall) is appointed the Special Advocate for the defense – a post 9/11 legal invention where only the advocate can see the secret information being used to convict the terrorist – in order to defend him.
Unanswered questions emerge before the trial, with many answers sealed in documentation that the accused can’t see. One of the main players in the investigation is his adolescent son and the plot twists with rich possibilities, some never fully exploited. This high-profile case unexpectedly binds together these two again – testing the limits of their loyalties and placing their lives in jeopardy. Some good guys turn out to be bad, MI5 is not transparent, and the accused is not who he seems to be.
Introduced at the titles and interspersed throughout, the closed circuit motif is not what the occasional shots would suggest and therein lies the attraction of the film. Much like Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (produced by the same team as this one), the story and its underlying implications requires a second viewing just to appreciate its complicated real-world ambiguities.
The following Q&A is culled from a roundtable held at the Waldorf Astoria shortly before the film’s release.
Is this something that sprung from the pages of reality or that might have actually happened?
Maybe not at such an extreme level. But it’s definitely born of a sense of frustration by people that work in the legal system in England, as to just how thorough and un-thorough that process can be. I won’t bore you with the whole special advocate intricacies. But yes there’s obviously many, many hours spent in the British legal system being frustrated by a lack of progress that comes from the mechanics that’s in place, in terms of evidence that can’t be heard. The general idea was born out of that. You take that idea to the nth degree. Okay, if they were withholding evidence and information what would the extreme of that be? Well it would be that there was an actual cover up. The reason that we can’t cross examine and talk to witnesses in open court is because these are the kinds of secrets that they’re holding. So I guess its an exaggeration of that idea. As a result of that it becomes a more traditional high stakes thriller.
It’s scary to think that a phantom government or organization exists beyond the Prime Minister. It seems even more prominent in England than here in the US. Does that make you look over your shoulder now? You’re paranoid that they might hit you for doing this movie to reveal their secrets?
The world is changing. Depending on which country you’re in, there are different levels as to which you feel as though you could be being watched and monitored. Every time we stay in the hotel and hook into the wi-fi, we accept the fact that there’s a good chance that at any point someone could look up anything you’ve looked up and check your history and see where you’ve gone. I think that’s the world we’re living in now. Certainly when you’re in London you’re aware of the fact that there are cameras everywhere.
Where I come from in Melbourne [Australia], its nowhere near that yet. There is a sense that when crime does happen that it’s not able to be investigated as quickly because there’s not as many closed circuit TV cameras. I’m not sure what it’s like in New York. I know that in some areas like Time Square there’s a lot of them but it doesn’t feel like a prominent part of the city landscape yet.
Your character has a back story with Rebecca Hall’s character. Was that always there when you first came into the script? How did you guys work it out?
Yes, it was there right from the beginning. I don’t know if you had a chance to sit down with [director] John [Crowley] or Rebecca yet, but they are two of the most delightful, super-intelligent people, so I was in great hands on this job. I was lucky Working Title agreed. I wanted to come out and do a bunch of research and hang out. I went out there a month or a month and a half before we started shooting and spent some time with John and Rebecca. We went through the script. We had a read through and did some rehearsal and all this sort of stuff.
Early on it was apparent that it was going to be a great experience. Working with Rebecca was incredible. I really loved that secret that they have and the fact that it raises the stakes of the drama. They tell a lie. They lie to the judge and have to cover up their past relationship. That raises the stakes for the audience and the drama involved. I also loved the fact that really, there is an element of this that is a love story in which we see no affectionate moments. There’s just this one little flashback when we see them in this hotel in the past, but you essentially have a love story in which the main characters don’t come anywhere near each other in a traditional scene.