by Kyle Arango
Everyone likes a good investigation courtroom drama, right? Where reporters get a smidge of information and reveal corrupt information about a group or government and expose them for all their dirty secrets. I love those films. That is not what Official Secrets is about. Official Secrets is a fresher story about the journey a whistleblower goes through when they decide to put their life on the line for what is right. We have seen films try and be different from what works before, can this film be worth the risk? Why, yes it can. Official Secrets is a fascinating telling of the turmoil a whistleblower goes through in order to stand for what they believe in.
Official Secrets is the true story about Katharine Gun, a British whistleblower who when sent information from the NSA about an operation to push the UN Security Council to sanction the 2003 invasion of Iraq, decides to leak that info to the press and let the world know they had been lied to. In doing so her whole life gets turned upside down and she must now decide to go further with what she believes is right and hurt those she loves or stand down and admit to guilt. I had never heard of this story before in my life being that it took place when I was seven. However, I am well aware of the fake war on Iraq and how people were lied to in order to support it. Gavin Hood directs this story and expertly guides you into understanding this very complicated sequence of events. It is not she just leaks information and then stands trial. Hood shows us everything that happens in between that and makes us as the audience wonder what we would do if we were sent this explosive information. Do we ignore it and move on, or risk everything in our lives to go for what is right?
What I appreciated most about this film is it is not like your typical government exposing story. It doesn’t follow the press like All the President’s Men, or The Post do and follow how they reacted. The focus is instead placed on the whistleblower and how heavy this decision impacted her life. Most movies make this character a subplot but by making them the focus it turns the film into more of a character piece then a newspaper drama. We get information like this and you’d think to leak it immediately, but there are consequences. Gun’s husband is a Muslim immigrant and you can bet his life gets changed when Gun becomes an enemy of the state. Stuff like this keeps us invested not just in the information being revealed, but in the characters as well. It also helps when Keira Knightley is your lead. She expertly portrays just how heavy this burden is on her character and when she does reveal that she leaked the information, you buy just how difficult of a decision this was because of how well Knightley shows the struggle. Surround her with actors like Ralph Fiennes, Rhys Ifans, and Matt Smith and you have a recipe for success.
So while not the easiest subject matter to tackle, Official Secrets is still able to explain this material and put a personal feel to it. This film is tremendously British in every sense but makes itself accessible for all to digest. Gavin Hood paces this story impeccably well through a unique perspective with Keira Knightley leading the way how she always does. I learned something watching this film and I hope others do the same.
The Verdict: 4/5 Stars