Jacob Richardson | 1/11/2019
Official Secrets brings a little known, but important, story back into the limelight, and does so in a tense and engaging way.
Katharine Gun (Keira Knightley) is an analyst at the GCHQ in Britain. When she gets a memo from the Americans instructing the British to dig up dirt on lesser UN Security Council members, in order to blackmail them into approving a UN Security Council approval for war in Iraq, her conscience turns her into a whistleblower. The film covers not only her leaking of the information, but the difficulties around publishing it and her subsequent legal battle.
This is SUCH an interesting story, and for those either not fully attuned to it at the time or who have since forgotten it, the information provided as the crux of the plot for this film is incredibly interesting. Director Gavin Hood uses an interesting blend of expository techniques to help tackle the complex topics presented in this real life tale, incorporating real news footage from the period with reenactments and a storytelling device between Katharine and her husband (who is less interested in politics than she is).
Keira Knightley does a great job of embodying Katharine Gun, and brings both a vulnerability and a strength to the role. The vulnerability is important to support the idea that Katharine is, in effect, an innocent do gooder who struggles with her decision. The strength is necessary to justify the future decision to face the British Government in Court with a not guilty plea.
The supporting cast is uniformly great, particularly Ralph Fiennes and Matt Smith. But Keira is the real standout here, and that is really as it should be in a story so centred on this tremendously courageous woman.
Official Secrets isn’t just worth a watch because of its worthy content (which is still relatable today), but also because it is so tense and interesting. Hood paces the story so well, and maintains interest and intrigue through what could have been a relatively staid and standard story. You get a real sense that Katharine is in the right, built throughout the piece rather than assumed from the off, and this leads you to be absolutely rooting for her by the court battle at the end.
Official Secrets is an engaging adult drama that shines a light on the politics, lies and deceit behind the Iraq War, and war more broadly.