In early 2003, Katharine Gun worked in signals intelligence for Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters. When she and the other GCHQ analysts received an email from the U.S. National Security Agency asking them to dig up information that could be used against members of the U.N. Security Council to leverage votes in favor of invading Iraq, she took a great personal risk. For no other reason than to avert a baseless war, Gun leaked a copy of the email, which eventually found its way to Martin Bright, an investigative journalist at The Guardian. Official Secrets tells their story.
Director Gavin Hood and his co-writers distill a mountain of facts into a dialogue-heavy but palatable script. As with 2016’s Eye in the Sky, Hood smartly focuses on the humanity of the story, not the politics. Shaping the narrative not just around Gun, but also the Guardian newsroom and her legal defense team, the filmmaker gives context and richness to the layers of unfolding drama.
Looking pale and nervous as the almost passive Gun, Keira Knightley delivers one of her best performances to date. She leads a strong cast, including Matt Smith (BBC’s “Dr. Who”), Matthew Goode (Downton Abbey), Rhys Ifans (Snowden) and Adam Bakri (Omar), plus Ralph Fiennes as defense attorney Ben Emmerson.
In many ways, Official Secrets is an understated production and somewhat dry as suspense/espionage thrillers go. There’s a simplicity at work here that’s frequently lost in modern day moviemaking; when the act of printing an email conjures such high suspense and anticipation, you know the filmmakers are doing something right.
It’s ironic that no one has ever been held accountable for the manipulation and blatant lies that led to the invasion of Iraq, while the life of the woman who had the moral conviction to stand against the lie will be forever upturned. In an age of rampant political corruption, Official Secrets reminds us to pay attention — and viewers would be wise to do so through the epilogue titles for one final nugget.
Now playing at Grail Moviehouse