Kiera Knightly is Katherine Gun, a dowdy yet earnest translator who works for the British secret service. However, when she receives a request from the CIA to help blackmail other UN nations into supporting the Iraq war, she senses betrayal. Torn by the UK prime minster’s public denials and the flagrant conspiracy in front of her, she feels compelled to act – but at what cost?
... ‘Official Secrets’ is drama at the opposite of the Hollywood scale.
Director Gavin Hood’s ‘Official Secrets’ is a film that lacks nothing for star power. A veritable feast of accomplished acting talent, his British docu-drama delivers performance after performance from a cast that just drips with quality. However, where this commendable, ‘based on a true story’ movie suffers is in the dryness of its staging.
With its keen eye for detail and truthful accuracy, ‘Official Secrets’ is drama at the opposite of the Hollywood scale. Without an orange explosion or a car chase to its name, it is the bureaucratic brother to ‘The State of Play’. Earnestly treading similar corridors to Le Carré’s ’Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy’, denials are treated as affirmations, and truth resides in the absence of action rather than a bludgeoned admission.
As a drama that focuses on the ‘UKUSA’ arrangement (pronounced “Yakuza”) the gangster-like posturings of the CIA are not lost on Knightly’s Katherine Gun. Fortunately in a role that allows her act rather than react, she finds herself in the good company of Rhys Ifans, Matt Smith, Ralph Fiennes, Tamsin Grieg and Jeremy Northam to name but a few. With actors’ names that should definitely be on your watchlist, the ‘Official Secrets’s’ cast deliver suitably sang-froid intrigue doused in David Hare-like dialogue.
As Clive Francis’s Admiral Nick Williamson later puts it: “All information should be made available. The issue is when” and so it is with ‘Official Secrets’. Robbed of its urgency by the intervening years, the events of ’Official Secrets’ emerge blinking in the daylight of current events. As a drama of government complicity and atrocity left unchecked, ‘Official Secrets’ is a cool, warning light of excess. Chilling in its ultimate reality, this is a past that’s almost within current, touching distance.