Official Secrets details GCHQ employee Katherine Gunn’s decision to release a memo that revealed the United States planned eavesdropped on, and potentially blackmail, diplomats from the UN and wanted the UK assistance in gathering information, as well as the fallout of this decision.
Much like The Report this a film that seeks to examine and expose past criminal undertakings from the Government and puts forward the need for transparency, especially in the current more divided political climate. There is a heavy theme in the film around Governments lying to their people, something that is clearly aimed at the Brexit movement, with a very overt line early on taking a clear swipe at the current Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
As well as Katherine Gunn’s story we also follow the team of journalists at the Observer, lead by Martin Bright, who broke the leaked memo in the press, and the lawyers, particularly Ben Emmerson, that Katherine hired to defend her when she was charged with a breach of the Official Secrets Act. Whilst Katherine’s story is designed as the emotional heart of the film, it was the other two story threads, which focused more on the political side of the story, rather than the personal one, that was really engaging.
That isn’t to say that Keira Knightley, who plays Katherine, is bad in the film. In fact this is one of her stronger performances, it was merely the less interesting storyline. It also helps that the rest of the cast is also excellent. Matt Smith plays Martin Bright and Matthew Goode plays his colleague Peter Beaumont, and they are both excellent. Similarly Ralph Fiennes as Ben Emmerson is great. The rest of the cast has a ton of well known or recognisable British actors backing them up as well.
Overall Official Secrets is a very solid, and generally entertaining film around an important topic. With its all star cast it tells a story that is extremely relevant in today’s current political climate.