Official Secrets Compelling Window into Iraq War Run-Up

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Official Secrets

The events of OFFICIAL SECRETS are true, and that's what makes the film so magnetic. It's not overblown with explosions, high-speed chases, or tense confrontations. It's a sequence of human decisions, facts, denials, and consequences.

Katharine Gun (KIERA KNIGHTLEY) was working as a translator for the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the British counterpart to the United States' NSA. Between the events of 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq, she was one of several recipients of a confidential email from the NSA, requesting assistance from GCHQ to dig into the backgrounds of several United Nations representatives for the purpose of finding leverage on them that could garner their votes for an invasion. Torn between duty and conscience, Katharine ultimately printed the email and, through a series of back-channels, got it into the hands of reporters at The Guardian.

Martin Bright (smartly played by MATT SMITH, DOCTOR WHO) published the article that reproduced the memo to a brief spate of acclaim, quickly followed by a media shunning. I personally recall the events shown in the film where The Drudge Report portrayed the memo to be a fabrication, pointing out several spelling changes that would never have appeared in an official memo from a U.S. agency. I also remember thinking that this was likely the result of spell-check taking over the document on a British-based word processor, and the events of the movie bear this out.

What should have been a turning point fizzled, but not without real-life consequences for Gun. Charged with violating the Official Secrets act, Gun was forced to stand trial while her Muslim husband faced deportation. And while there was a good bit of legal gymnastics performed by Gun's legal counsel, Ben Emmerson (RALPH FIENNES), the outcome to the case was shockingly brought to an unexpected conclusion by the prosecution itself.

A real-life spy drama without all the James Bond trappings makes OFFICIAL SECRETS an impacting viewing experience.

Grade: 
5.0 / 5.0