UK’s controversial involvement in Iraq feels like a pale contender to the
current political apocalypse. But, considering the lives lost during that time,
its weight still hangs heavy in history.
Official Secrets, based on the
true story of whistle-blower Katherine Gun, tries its best to recapture that tangible
period. The film — director Gavin Hood’s eighth feature, following his superior drone
Eye in the Sky — is patchy and dramatic, but provides a
small, educational insight into one of the most important leaks in modern times.
Keira Knightley gives a predictably stiff performance as Katharine Gun
Gun worked at GCHQ in the weeks leading up to the Iraq War. She came across an
email from the NSA encouraging the blackmail of UN members to support the war.
Gun leaked the information and it ended up on the front page of The Observer,
leading to a court case accusing her of treason for breaking the Official Secrets Act 1989.
strange that a film about a whistle-blower — the risks she faced, the life she left
behind — should platform such a tediously depicted protagonist. It’s a predictably stiff performance
from Keira Knightley, playing Gun, only occasionally convincing when she slates
the lies the government tells; there’s a real fury there.
But the fault really
lies with the screenwriters Sara Bernstein, Gregory Bernstein, and Gavin Hood,
who don’t dig deeper into the more human reasons for Gun’s defection. Sure,
we’re offered a few background details, as well as her memorable response to
being told she works for the British government (‘No, I work for the British
But what led her there? Why her, of all people? The film leaves these
questions dangling, and the first act sets off a pessimistic dread: will it be
like this for the entire film?
A stubbly Matt Smith rocks up as Martin Bright, the journalist who broke the Gun story
Hood moves away from Gun’s cottage in Cheltenham and drops into the London offices
of The Observer. A stubbly Matt Smith, playing Martin Bright, rocks up
as one of those conventional movie journalist characters determined to find the truth, while being
explosively bellowed at by his editor (played by
Game of Thrones’s
It’s not the quiet, restrained, realistic environment of the Oscar-winning Spotlight — plenty is over the top. But, as with any journalistic
drama, there’s an intellectual satisfaction in watching the writers find the
pieces in the story and fix them together.
Fiennes eventually emerges from shadows, like his Shakespearean reputation
proceeds him, playing Gun’s lawyer during the third-act legal battle. He
carries the movie as it stumbles, offering some much-needed humour and sharp dialogue
which most of the film regrettably lacks.
Given the punch of similar journo/courtroom
dramas written by Aaron Sorkin (The Newsroom, The Social Network)
or Liz Hannah (The Post), Official Secrets struggles to compete.
It’s only a shame that Fiennes’s character didn’t feature more, considering he’s
the most watchable character; and, considering the unprecedented personal drama
of the final scene, it’s likely a lot of his scenes were cut.
this true-life investigative drama occasionally finds its fascination, it’s not as engrossing as it
|What||Official Secrets review|
18 Oct 19 – 18 Oct 20, TIMES VARY
|Price||£determined by cinemas|
|Website||Click here for more information|