Fri 27th March: Films on The Narth - Official Secrets


(2019) 112 mins

Director: Gavin Hood
Writers: Gregory Bernstein


The true story of a British whistleblower who leaked information to the press about an illegal NSA spy operation designed to push the UN Security Council into sanctioning the 2003 invasion of Iraq. 

It is based on the true case of Katharine Gun (Keira Knightley), a translator working for the British security services at the GCHQ surveillance unit in Cheltenham.

In 2003, she was astonished to receive an email making it plain she was expected to find out incriminating personal details in the lives of UN representatives from small countries so that they could be blackmailed into voting for the war in Iraq.

Gun printed out the email, and passed it to an anti-war friend, and it eventually formed the basis of a sensational front-page scoop in the Observer.

Although it did not stop the war, as Gun dreamed of doing, it played an important part in turning press and public opinion.

Gun herself was prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act.

Also starring Rhys Ifans and Matt Smith.

The Guardian: "There’s something interestingly tough and forthright about this slow-burner from director and co-writer Gavin Hood. It is a beady-eyed spy drama." (4 stars)

The Independent: "The film bulks out its cast with strong supporting turns by recognisable faces. Matt Smith adds a wiry energy to Martin Bright, The Observer journalist who pushed to have Gun’s memo published, while Ralph Fiennes is pleasantly stoic as human rights lawyer Ben Emmerson." (3 stars)

The Times: "It’s Knightley who holds the show together — she’s a power player here. The minimalism of the poker face she presents to others is deeply affecting, with a tight mouth of tension and huge expressive eyes hinting at fathomless turmoil within. It’s serious stuff. But it’s her movie. She owns it." (4 stars)