Review: Official Secrets13th November 2019
It’s always nice when the one film of the year you’re excited for isn’t a massive disappointment. Official Secrets looks to discuss the fallout of the leaked Iraq War documents and the impact it left on the United Kingdom. Following the real-life story of Katharine Gun, a GCHQ employee and Martin Bright, a journalist for The Observer newspaper, Official Secrets is a superb thriller that combines a broad story of espionage with the terrifying real-world consequences of leaking government documents.
Considering this isn’t a period piece set before the 21st century, it was a great surprise to see Keira Knightley star as Gun, the employee responsible for leaking government documents that prove the illegality of the Iraq War. It’s a superb performance, and some of Knightley’s best work in years. Ever since the release of the equally as enjoyable The Imitation Game, Knightley seems to have dropped off the map a bit. Releasing dud films for five years in a row, it’s nice to see that she has finally broken this trend and dived back into the mainstream culture with a performance surely great enough to warrant a hefty amount of praise, awards and adoration.
She’s not the only consistently great performer featured, with both Matt Smith and Ralph Fiennes supporting Knightley’s incredulous work. Smith too gives some of the best work we’ll ever see from him as reporter Martin Bright. In fact, the entire cast is truly impeccable. We get yet another stunning performance from Fiennes who delivers no matter what he appears in. I couldn’t name a single bad performance from such an incredible actor. We also receive some nice, albeit small roles from Matthew Goode, Rhys Ifans and Tasmin Greig. Everyone pools their resources together in such an incredible fashion, it makes Official Secrets such a triumphantly enjoyable piece to watch.
Director Gavin Hood is on top form, especially enjoyable after 2015’s Eye in the Sky. A fictional political thriller, Eye in the Sky provided us with Hood’s attention to detail and ability to create suspense in seemingly innocuous topics. He repeats that in a non-fictional setting with Official Secrets, where he excels in creating tense and vibrant scenes that will leave an audience on the edge of their seat. His knack for detail really presents the story well, and there’s never a dull moment through what is in effect a truly engaging modern political thriller.
Carried not only by the great performances of its cast and solid direction holding it all together, but by that of its genuine political impact, Official Secrets is an important biopic that pools together one of the biggest stories of the modern century. Its details are thorough, its performances superb and its message clear. A film that feels more necessary now than it ever did before, Official Secrets is a thrilling showcase of a chillingly true story.