Review – Official Secrets
Official Secrets delivers a moralistic tale for our times, and sees a powerful performance by Keira Knightley
In 2015’s Eye in the Sky, director Gavin Hood explored the moral and ethical dilemma of using drone technology in warfare. His latest film is 2019’s Official Secrets starring Keira Knightley in the true story of Katharine Gun. In 2003, as the US and UK were pushing towards the Iraq war, Gun leaked a confidential memo illegal gathering of intelligence that would be used to force members of the UN Security Council to support the invasion.
The film effectively splits in two, firstly the leak of the information and then secondly the impacts both in terms of the international politics and the personal consequences to Gun and her muslim husband, Yasar. The film is based on the book The Spy Who Tried to Stop a War by Marcia & Thomas Mitchell.
The first thing to call out here is Knightly’s performance which is easily her best work since The Imitation Game and I continue to think that she is a significantly under-rated British Actress and here’s a prediction – one day she will win an Oscar.
Beyond Knightly, the film includes Matt Smith as a journalist for The Observer, Ralph Fiennes as lawyer Ben Emmerson and also performances from Rhys Ifans, Matthew Goode, Adam Bakri and Indira Varma.
The film explores the moral dilemma that Gun faced and although lacking in some of the dramatic action moments of Eye in the Sky, it successfully creates a real sense of personal jeopardy that she faced. Although the film can film monotonous at times, it continues to build and I must admit to being completely unaware of the story and the fate of Gun through the film.
If you don’t know the story, its worth watching. Both for Keira Knightley’s performance but also for the true story that sits behind the film. The story throws all of the debate onto the table but it’s clear that it also has a strong point of view on both her actions, and the war itself.
In a period where whistleblowers such as Edward Snowden or Chelsea Manning are famous (not to mention Julian Assange and Wikileaks), the film has a powerful relevance in today’s discussion about privacy and monitoring.