Official Secrets - Movie Review by José-Ignacio Castañeda


Directed by: Gavin Hood

Starring: Keira Knightley, Matt Smith, Ralph Fiennes, Indira Varma and Rhys Ifans

“Official Secrets” whispers the true story of the British intelligence officer, Katharine Gun (Keira Knightley), and the fallout of events that occur after she tries to prevent Britain from entering the Iraq war in 2003.

Amid the rising tensions of war, Gun transcribes decoded foreign messages into her computer. Suddenly, a memo from the NSA infects her inbox.

The memo details the United States’ plan to garner the help of the British intelligence community in order to blackmail key members of the United Nations into voting for the war in Iraq. Shocked and nullified, Gun decides to print the memo and sneak it out of her workplace.

Gun then hands the memo off to her old friend and anti-war movement supporter, Jasmine (MyAnna Buring). After failing to publish the memo in other newspapers, the document is finally given to Martin Bright (Matt Smith), a journalist for the Observer. 

Bright vigorously vets the memo before he decided to pitch the story to his hothead editor, Roger Alton (Conleth Hill). Alton decides to print the blackmailing story alongside the memo, but once the story runs, everything falls apart.

The public is shocked by the Observer’s story but no one believes it due to an error in the memo. Certain words in the memo, which was alleged to have been written by an American NSA official, are mistakenly autocorrected to the King’s English. With that error and without a credible “leaked” source, the memo begins to fold under pressure.

Meanwhile, Gun’s workplace begins to conduct internal investigations in order to oust the whistleblower. As the investigation intensifies, Gun decided to confess in order to protect her coworkers and legitimize the memo.  

Gun must then face the consequences of her actions under the constricting hand of the British government and the Official Secrets Act.

With secretive government agencies, underground parking garage meetings and tie-loosening journalists, this film resembles a revamped British version of “All the President’s Men,” but instead of president it’s Prime Minister.

“Official Secrets” executes tension extremely well on a variety of levels. From the most basic human-to-human interaction to an interaction between a government and its people. The stakes of the movie are carefully and wisely placed inside the sympathetic character of Gun, whom Keira Knightly extraordinarily plays.

Keira Knightley delivers a great performance with a specialization in portraying the internal conflict that ravages Gun throughout the movie. Additionally, Matt Smith, Ralph Fiennes and Rhys Ifans give marvelous performances. Most of the main characters in the movie don’t share the screen too often, and they absolutely don’t need to. Their characters are strong and interestingly independent.

This timely film operates well within the powerhouse of a political thriller, while also dividing its storytelling evenly among its well-written characters. 3.75/4 Stars