Rob Reviews "Official Secrets"
A wise man once wrote, “with great power comes great responsibility,” and ethics is a huge part of that. Especially now in the digital age, the security of not only our data but our lives in general is in the hands of so many that there is way too much room for that power to be abused (in another saying, “power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely”). Especially in the last few decades, there have been a number of these cases brought to light via people known as “whistleblowers”. (For a great look into these cases, look up the whistleblower episode of NPR’s “Planet Money”: Episode 916 “The Whistleblower Whisperer,” May 29th, 2019.) The first big case of this in the United Kingdom happened in 2003 with Katherine Gun and is the subject of Gavin Hood’s latest film, “Official Secrets”.
Named after the British law that prohibits government employees for leaking information that could endanger the government, Gun (Keira Knightley) comes across an e-mail where she and her fellow interpreters are asked to monitor communications from those that oppose the government’s intention to invade Afghanistan with the United States and others. By bringing this damaging yet confidential information to a friend of hers that can distribute it to the media, she not only puts her job at risk, but also her livelihood and that of her foreign national husband (Adam Bakri). Once she gets the memo out there, newspaper reporter Martin Bright (Matt Smith) is the one brave enough to print it, and when the government wants to bring charges against her, she winds up in the office of Ben Emmerson (Ralph Finnes), who runs a firm that takes on human rights cases.
This is easily one of the best performances of Knightley’s career. Showing that she is more than an adventure sidekick or rom-com down-on-her-luck girl, she brings an intensity to the role of Katherine Gun that creates a palpable tension as this story unfolds. Based on a book By Thomas and Marcia Mitchell, this story is rich, layered, and told brilliantly. With a very strong cast that tells the story on both sides of the pond laced with actual news footage that pertains to it, there can be an argument made that “Official Secrets” is one of the films that ushers in awards season. While I believe that was on the mind of the filmmakers, I am also not sure that this could be seen as “Oscar Bait”. There is a respect for the story that this cast and crew give that show that they simply wanted to make the best film possible to do justice (no pun intended) to this groundbreaking case in the United Kingdom.
This film may not get the promotion that it deserves, but that does not mean that it does not deserve the love and respect that I believe it earns. “Official Secrets” should be one that is on everyone’s “must see” list as we barrel in towards the final quarter of 2019.