IFC Films | Release Date: August 30, 2019
7.8
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Generally favorable reviews based on 9 Ratings
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9
GinaKSep 16, 2019
I am going to rate this film quite high, not because of its subject, but because of the committed and totally convincing performances of the actors, most notably by Keira Knightley, and the sly one contributed by Ralph Fiennes, which bordersI am going to rate this film quite high, not because of its subject, but because of the committed and totally convincing performances of the actors, most notably by Keira Knightley, and the sly one contributed by Ralph Fiennes, which borders on scenery chewing (in a positive sense). Who would have thought that a movie about the Iraq War could be compelling and even suspenseful? Expand
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8
Brent_MarchantSep 12, 2019
A somewhat rote but nevertheless compelling biopic telling the story of British whistleblower Katharine Gun and how she exposed government efforts to strong-arm United Nations Security Council members into sanctioning the 2003 Iraq War basedA somewhat rote but nevertheless compelling biopic telling the story of British whistleblower Katharine Gun and how she exposed government efforts to strong-arm United Nations Security Council members into sanctioning the 2003 Iraq War based on faulty intelligence, only to subsequently face prosecution (not to mention harassment) under the UK's Official Secrets Act. It's a story not well known outside the UK and one with a message that we should all take to heart. Keira Knightley delivers a knock-out performance as the unlikely and unwitting heroine, backed by a superb supporting cast and the fine direction of filmmaker Gavin Hood. Like the story it's based on, this film hasn't received much attention, but it's definitely a worthwhile view. Expand
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7
MarkHReviewsOct 5, 2019
A film about a whistleblower – what could be more timely? (Given the American attention span, this film is, of course, available only in limited release.) These days, a film about a whistleblower must be hard to make compelling. There areA film about a whistleblower – what could be more timely? (Given the American attention span, this film is, of course, available only in limited release.) These days, a film about a whistleblower must be hard to make compelling. There are no clandestine trips to make chalk marks on park benches at midnight or earnest face-to-face conversations in poorly-lit underground garages. Now, since nearly everything happens on a computer screen, a grimace, a sigh or a raised eyebrow have to substitute for talking, running or other derring-do. Even so, “Official Secrets” keeps viewers’ attention while patiently stoking their sense of outrage.

This film chronicles the true story of Katharine Gun, an analyst working at the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), a part of British intelligence. On January 31, 2003, Gun and her co-workers received copies of an email from Frank Koza (really his name – Keyser Soze, anyone?), a regional director at the NSA in the US. Koza wanted British intelligence to help collect dirt on UN staffers who represented Angola, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Chile, Guinea and Pakistan. The purpose was to pressure these representatives because they represented the “swing votes” on the pending UN resolution to approve the war in Iraq. Enraged by what she perceived to be an illegal request in furtherance of an illegal war, Gun gave a copy of the email to an activist friend. Eventually, the email was published in the London newspaper “The Observer,” sparking international outrage and eliminating any prospect that the UN resolution for war would pass. “Official Secrets” addresses these events and the trial that follows, when Gun is eventually charged under the UK’s Official Secrets Act.

A wide variety of recognizable stars participated in this project. For Keira Knightley (Gun), this role must have been a welcome respite from her recent series of frothy period pieces. She persuasively portrays Gun as a worker bee with a social conscience and a basic sense of decency. As her attorney Ben Emmerson, Ralph Fiennes stops just short of literally chewing the scenery. The film is enriched by performances from Matt Smith (Prince Philip in “The Crown”), Rhys Ifans (Mycroft Holmes on TV’s “Elementary”) and ever-reliable British actors Matthew Goode (“The Crown”), Indira Varma (“Paranoid”) and Ray Panthaki (“Marcella”). Consistently ominous music from Paul Hepker and Mark Kilian makes sure we are anxious and alarmed in all the appropriate places.

Director/Co-Writer Gavin Hood’s previous work includes “Rendition” and “Eye in the Sky,” so be forewarned that this is a film with a point of view. Even so, Hood’s story keeps the audience engaged and generally sticks to the facts, suppressing the impulse to lecture the audience or nurture a particular political point of view.

If you’re willing to accept the premise that a government whistleblower can make a difference by speaking truth to power at great personal cost, this film could be a reassuring couple of hours.
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