Keira Knightley, Ralph Fiennes, Matt Smith, Matthew Goode and Rhys Ifans
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Confusing vitriol with passion, Official Secrets’ ambitions become diluted by unapologetically brash filmmaking.
From the likes of Frost/Nixon, Spotlight, The Post, and the recently released The Report, the intriguing nature behind uncovering institutional skeletons has filmmakers, critics and audiences titillated.
The modern-day rebel lives on in the whistle-blower, with the latest film to depict such a case, Official Secrets, offering a brooding and scathing assessment on government.
Based on the true story of British translator Katharine Gun (Keira Knightley), Official Secrets follows her leaking of top-secret government intel to British news outlet The Observer. The material in question reveals a request from the United States to have British Intelligence gather intel on members of the United Nations Security Council due to vote on the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
A true story involving international cover-ups, spies, the government, and an insider job; what could have been a well-balanced exploration on the importance of journalism in keeping governments in check instead transpires to be an ominous and irate political thriller.
Director Gavin Hood (Tsotsi, Eye in the Sky) seizes every opportunity to make lacerating comments about government duplicity. He makes it his mission to voice political disdain as a series of unsophisticated anti-political jabs (made by journalists at The Observer portrayed adequately by Matt Smith, Matthew Goode and Rhys Ifans) and bafflingly intense stares by Knightley towards the TV when a politician is in view.
Gun’s experiences throughout Official Secrets, particularly her impending trial where she is defended by Human Rights lawyer Ben Emmerson (Ralph Fiennes), is emblematic of a society fed-up with the government’s power to act in secrecy and without accountability. Hood does not permit Knightley to become more than her character’s indignation. Resultingly, Hood’s ill-tempered direction creates an unappealing and spiteful tone that detracts from the film’s exploration of corruption.
The struggles of the film bleed into the suspense department, with Hood being unable to elicit intrigue. (A scene involving the printing of confidential documents being as mundane as it sounds).
Confusing vitriol with passion, Official Secrets’ ambitions to champion journalistic inquiry – an industry facing mounting trust and economic woes – become diluted by unapologetically brash filmmaking.