Following are Susan Granger's review of the latest movies in area theaters:
There's a quirky British law that requires a defendant in high-profile cases to have two lawyers who are forbidden to share classified information with one another, and that's the basis of this intriguing legal thriller in which the two attorneys are former lovers.
Filmed by multiple surveillance cameras, the story begins with a horrific truck explosion that obliterates London's Borough Market. Soon after, authorities arrest Turkish-born Farroukh Erdogan (Denis Moschitto), who is accused of masterminding the attack.
In order to try his case, the court must consider evidence that's deemed so sensitive by MI5 that even the defendant is not permitted to hear or read it. In this kind of situation, the accused is entitled to two separate lawyers, one to try his case in public court, and the other to serve as his Special Advocate in closed hearings -- but the counselors cannot communicate with one another.
When Erdogan's original barrister mysteriously commits suicide, Martin Rose (Eric Bana) is assigned to defend the alleged bomber. Problem is: Rose previously had an affair with Claudia Simmons-Howe (Rebecca Hall) who is already serving as the court-appointed Special Advocate. Instead of recusing themselves on ethical grounds, they're both eager to "make" their reputations by investigating and winning this case, while government forces are pursuing a speedy conviction.
Intelligently scripted by Steve Knight ("Eastern Promises," "Dirty Pretty Things") and tautly directed by John Crowley ("Boy A"), the challenging secrecy concept has particular relevance since a significant portion of the U.S.'s case against Bradley Manning was undisclosed in order to protect national security. Knight, Crowley and film editor Lucia Zucchetti cleverly craft the paranoid ploy of ubiquitous technological surveillance and the sanctioned invasion of privacy to underscore the threat of omnipotent parliamentary corruption.
Despite several plot contrivances, Eric Bana and Rebecca Hall are quite believable, aided and abetted by a strong supporting cast including Jim Broadbent, Ciaran Hinds, Riz Ahmed, Anne-Marie Duff and Julia Stiles.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Closed Circuit" is a subdued yet suspenseful 7, a timely conspiracy thriller.
In this wannabe thriller, ex-NASCAR driver Brent Magna (Ethan Hawke) steals a souped-up Ford Shelby Mustang GT500 Super Snake from an underground parking garage in Sofia, Bulgaria. He drives it and its gun-toting owner, a spoiled American brat (Selena Gomez), in a pedal-to-the-metal race against time, following terse orders ("Drive onto the skating rink!" "Crash into the water truck!") issued via a dashboard telephone by a mysterious villain (Jon Voight) who has kidnapped his wife, Leanne (Rebecca Budig), and is holding her hostage.
Inanely and ineptly scripted by novices Sean Finegan and Gregg Maxwell Parker and directed by Courtney Solomon ("Dungeons & Dragons," "An American Hunting"), it's action-packed -- but that's about all that can be said for it.
The iPad-wielding, computer-hacking character played by international music star/Disney Channel alumna Gomez ("Spring Breakers") is never even named, although her father's obviously an influential investment banker.
Since all attention is focused on the interminable car chases, as the American muscle car, rigged with digital surveillance cameras inside-and-out, frantically evades an entire fleet of Euro-made vehicles, primary credit should go to veteran stunt coordinator Charles Picerni, who orchestrated the speeding mayhem, along with the mind-numbing wreckage. According to the production notes, some 130 cars were demolished to achieve the special effects.
Let's face it: Ethan Hawke in a car with Julie Delpy, driving through sun-dappled Greece in Richard Linklater's "Before Midnight" is far more interesting than Ethan Hawke in a car with Selena Gomez, careening around a wintry urban plaza, wreaking chaos at Christmastime.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Getaway" is a tiresome 3, incoherently spinning its wheels for 97 minutes with sheer stupidity.
"THE PATIENCE STONE"
In an urban war zone in an unspecified Middle Eastern country, a Muslim woman (Golshifteh Farahani) dutifully cares for her domineering, much older husband (Hamid Djavadan), who lies comatose. He was shot in the neck defending mother's honor.
The mullah said that after two weeks he would recover, but it's been longer -- and he's still unresponsive. The water-bearer hasn't come, and she has no money to buy medicine from the pharmacist. When bombs explode, she and her two young daughters retreat into an underground shelter. Desperate, she then evades marauding soldiers to seek help from her aunt (Hassina Burgan), a prostitute who observes, "Those who don't know how to make love make war."
Based on the Afghan-born, France-based writer Aliq Rahimi's 2008 novel, which won the Prix Goncourt, France's highest literary prize, this story vividly depicts the grim realities about the oppression women endure under the Taliban regime. The title comes from a legend about a magical rock, The Patience Stone, which absorbs the misery of those who confide in it -- until it eventually shatters.
So the distraught woman returns -- day after day -- to pour out the painful secrets of her heart to her injured, unresponsive husband. Hesitantly at first, then candidly, she unburdens her soul in long soliloquies of self-discovery, detailing in repeated flashbacks the harrowing abuses she has suffered, her deceits, and her yearning for romantic love. The psychological freedom generated by this confidence-inspiring confessional transforms her from victim to warrior.
With screenwriter Jean-Claude Carriere, writer/director Atiq Rahimi has fashioned a harrowing, horrifying film, which was selected as Afghanistan's entry for the 2013 Academy Awards. At its core is the compelling performance by Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani, a real-life rebel, exiled from the Islamic Republic which condemned her for playing opposite Leonardo DiCaprio in "Body of Lies" and posing for provocative photographs.
In Farsi (a.k.a. Dari), the Persian dialect spoken in Afghanistan, with English subtitles.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "The Patience Stone" is a profoundly disturbing 7 -- because of Golshifteh Farahani's enthralling performance.