Like Scott Burns‘ The Report, which was acquired by Amazon after debuting in Park City two or three days ago, Gavin Hood‘s Official Secrets (Entertainment One) 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.
The Report is about Senate staffer Daniel Jones (Adam Driver) investigating, authoring and releasing a massive report on CIA torture; Official Secrets is about real-life translator and British intelligence employee Katharine Gun (Keira Knightley) revealing a U.S. plan to bug United Nations “swing”countries in order to pressure them 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.
The difference is that while The Report is plodding, sanctimonious and a chore to sit through, Official 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, and which recalls the efficient, brass-tack narratives of All The President’s Men or Michael Clayton.
Official Secrets is exactly the sort of fact-based government & politics drama that I adore, just as The Report is precisely the kind of self-righteous, moral-breast-beating drama that I can’t stand.
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.
Hood’s Eye in the Sky was one of the finest and most gripping films of 2015, and here he is again with another winner. Hats off to a good guy.