Official Secrets review – Keira Knightley shines as a very British whistleblower

the Guardian | 10/18/2019 | Peter Bradshaw


There’s something interestingly tough and forthright about this slow-burner from director and co-writer Gavin Hood. It is a beady-eyed spy drama that has shrewd things to say about the British establishment’s tendency to spite under pressure, about the eternal duality of cockup and conspiracy, about the Kafkaesque problems involved in defending yourself legally against a treason charge, and, importantly, about the kind of young, vulnerable people that we end up depending on to tell us how we are governed.

Official Secrets shows that spy dramas from real life are very often not action thrillers such as Bond or Bourne or Homeland – or indeed Hood’s last movie, Eye in the Sky, from 2015 – but something more like nuclear-level office politics.

Case - Katharine - Gun - Translator - Security

It is based on the true case of Katharine Gun, a translator working for the British security services at the GCHQ surveillance unit in Cheltenham. In 2003, she was astonished to receive an email making it plain she was expected to find out incriminating personal details in the lives of UN representatives from small countries so that they could be blackmailed into voting for the war in Iraq. Gun printed out the email, and passed it to an anti-war friend, and it eventually formed the basis of a sensational front-page scoop in the Observer.

The Observer’s front page on 2 March 2003.

War - Gun - Part - Press - Opinion

Although it did not stop the war, as Gun dreamed of doing, it played an important part in turning press and public opinion. Gun herself was prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act.

Keira Knightley gives a focused, plausible and sympathetic performance as Gun, and the film shows that she is in many ways the classic whistleblower. She has an idealism, work ethic and professionalism that made her an excellent intelligence operative in the first place, and yet it is precisely these things...
(Excerpt) Read more at: the Guardian
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