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a tense whistle-blower morality play
CineMuseFilms26 June 2019
The release of Official Secrets (2019) coincides with the current US President telling the world he gladly accepts intelligence dirt on political opponents irrespective of source. With impeccable timing, the film shows how such dirt-gathering can potentially impact the course of history.

Based on real events, Katharine Gun (Keira Knightly) is a surveillance employee in Britain's Government Communication Headquarters (GCHQ). In early 2003, she sees an email from an American intelligence agency seeking British support to illegally pressure six UN Security Council swing-states for war with Iraq (falsely claiming it possessed weapons of mass destruction). Highly principled and anti-war, Katharine passes on the email to a friend with journalist connections and within weeks it is on the front pages. She confesses her crime, and for the next year, her life is hell as she awaits trial under the Official Secrets Act.

If you have little interest in global politics or major world events, you may get lost in this dialogue-driven moral rights story. It is crafted into several narrative segments: Katharine's relationship to her Muslim immigrant husband; her relations with GCHQ colleagues; the role of The Observer newspaper; and legal arguments by defence and prosecution lawyers. Each is a separate and engaging story that culminates in a shock trial outcome in early 2004.

Official Secrets works at several levels, but it is Keira Knightly who keeps the film together. She exudes an effortless screen presence that holds audience attention despite an uncharacteristically understated performance. This ensures that attention is drawn away from herself to keep the spotlight on the morality of whistleblowing and the duplicity of US and British action in manipulating due process. Archival material on Tony Blair, George W. Bush, and Saddam Hussein defines the story's time and place with authenticity. The script is dense with explanation and legal argument but, at the core, it is a story of one individual who believes an illegal war is about to be declared and cannot bear the moral responsibility of doing nothing.

Much of the action takes place in The Observer newsroom as reporters grapple with the enormity of the information leak, the legal consequences of going to press, and the implications of silence. The interplay of commercial, legal, and political imperatives is well drawn by an excellent supporting cast and a filming style evocative of the loneliness that comes from being one voice standing on principle.

There continues to be real-life morality dramas involving high-profile whistle-blowers around the world, and the public is divided on whether they are heroes or villains. This film may help you decide.
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Brilliant screenplay, superb acting!
jhwaldo25 June 2019
The screenwriting magic of the incredibly talented husband and wife team of Bernstein and Bernstein bring this true story filled with spies, treason, love and war to the big screen. Though a true story and the ending is known, this film has the viewer balanced on the edge of their seat with suspense. Kiera Knightly's best performance to date and Ralph Fiennes is brilliant as her lawyer. Every performance is excellent in this must see film when it premieres in August 2019. (Viewed at the Nantucket Film Festival June 2019)
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Solid, even vital story, coolly related
dloft5931 July 2019
In the winter of 2003, a translator working for the British government saw a document that indicated the U.S. was trying to lead the Western powers into an illegal war in Iraq. The document, an email from a US National Security Agency official, urged spying on members of the UN Security Council to pressure them to vote for a resolution to support the war. Enraged that the British government is apparently participating in this effort to lie to their respective nations' citizens and blackmail others to justify an illegal war, Katharine Gun arranges for the email to be leaked to the press.

Co-writer and director Gavin Wood, whose last project was the taut and thrilling "Eye in the Sky," has created a more calm and conventional presentation of a true story here. It's important -- and even relevant in 2019, when the U.S. President constantly lies and casually dismisses evidence of international espionage. It's also beautifully shot, underplayed with superb acting (especially by Knightley, who manages to hold together somewhat disparate plots -- her character's personal arc with her Turkish Muslim immigrant husband, the issues for the media faced with this info, and the legal questions raised by her defense team), with a brooding, mostly not in-your-face score.

But it's a talky movie that may find it a challenge to connect with American audiences: no shooting, no car chases or punches thrown, and only a brief war-zone scene. The viewer is left to take the critical issues from recent history as far as he or she chooses, and some of the more thorny questions about political whistle-blowers such as Assange and Snowden remain untouched. (The motives of the real Katharine Gun may indeed have been as pure as they're depicted here, and if so, major kudos to her, but that doesn't make for a terribly ambiguous protagonist and story). The understated plotting and acting lead to an equally -- and probably also true -- understated and almost anti-climactic denouement in court, where Gun appears to face charges of violating Britain's Official Secrets Act.

I'm glad Wood and company made the movie. The story and the questions it raises are worth thinking about . . . and one cannot help wondering how Tony Blair, George W. Bush, and Colin Powell look upon those events -- and how they're depicted in this movie -- today.
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Well made liberal puff piece based on lies and conjecture - fiction packaged as truth
joeyford-5534216 August 2019
If you saw VICE, in the beginning they have this vague statement "based on a real story" and then they proceed to lie to you for 90 minutes. The amount of liberal spin in OFFICIAL SECRETS cannot be overstated. As someone who has had a TS clearance for 30+ years, the "Bush Lied, People Died" chant pushed by the left is as solid as "if the glove don't fit you must acquit" got OJ off a murder charge which he later confessed to in prison and in a book he wrote. This movie is about a low-level British spy who takes it on herself to second guess the thousands of other spies who are doing their little part in the machine that is national security. The left keeps using the term "illegal war" like that means something like calling a terrorist in Iraq an "enemy combatant" makes it less of a horror when he straps a bomb to his pregnant wife and pushes her into a marketplace. The war was not "illegal" as it was voted on by Congress (to include Obama and Hillary) and the WMDs were later found to exist (they were buried in the sand and sold to Syria .. who has since used them on their own people)! The whole think is a farce. The acting is good, Keira Knightly is amazing. Too bad she is playing a fictional role in this liberal puff piece. Can't recommend this one.
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Movie Poster Review
radioconductor30 June 2019
I just looked at the poster on this one. Here's one that speaker commercial with the popcorn bouncing out is a real thing, people can hurt themselves with it; the warning label would be like 100 yards long to explain why. That's a real thing.
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Solid Political Thriller
truemythmedia8 August 2019
Official Secrets is a very well done and very important political thriller, it won the best Foreign Film Award at the Traverse City Film Festival that I attended, so that goes to prove that it has a lasting effect, and I agree. So if you're willing to believe in what the story is telling you, it has great performances and twists and turns throughout, it'll have you cheering for the protagonists and utterly booing the antagonists, if you're in the mood for a good solid political thriller I recommend Official Secrets.
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