I heartily approved of Gavin Hood‘s Official Secrets (IFC Films, 9.30) when I saw it at last January’s Sundance Film Festival. Four out of five critics had agreed with me (and vice versa) a few days prior to the opening. It’s mildly disappointing to report that after after 10 days in theatres Official Secrets has only earned about $350K. Then again audiences have been conditioned to watch this kind of fare at home for the most part.
Official Secrets is a fact-based whistleblower drama about exposing shifty, lying behavior on the part of the Bush-Cheney administration in the selling and prosecution of the Iraq War. It’s about real-life translator and British intelligence employee Katharine Gun (Keira Knightley) revealing a U.S. plan to intimidate United Nations “swing”countries into voting in favor of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which of course was founded upon a fiction that Saddam Hussein‘s Iraqi government was in possession of WMDs and represented a terrorist threat.
Secrets is an ace-level piece about pressure, courage and hard political elbows — a grade-A, non-manipulative procedural that tells Gun’s story in brisk, straightforward fashion. It’s exactly the sort of fact-based government & politics drama that I adore.
The performances by Knightley, Matt Smith (as Observer reporter Martin Bright), Matthew Goode (as journalist Peter Beaumont), Rhys Ifans as Ed Vulliamy, Adam Bakri as Yasar Gun, and
Ralph Fiennes as British attorney Ben Emmerson are excellent fits — as good as any fan of this kind of thing could possibly hope for.
Two months ago Gun participated in a sit-down with Hood and the journalists who broke the story of the leaked memo, Martin Bright and Ed Vulliamy, on Democracy Now!: