Keira Knightley in a still from the Official Secrets Trailer. Picture Courtesy: YouTube/Movieclips Trailer

Official Secrets Movie Review: A no-frills, dull engagement

By Johnson Thomas | Mumbai

Updated: Sep 30, 2019, 09:32 IST

Megan Gill's editing chutzpah and Paul Hepker and Mark Kilian's intriguing score try hard to drum up some suspenseful enthusiasm but Hood's narrative sterility fails to evoke much response!

Official Secrets
Cast: Keira Knightley, Matt Smith, Matthew Goode, Indira Varma, Rhys Ifans, MyAnna Buring, Tamsin Greig
Director: Gavin Hood
Rating: 

This film, based on the book The Spy Who Tried to Stop a War, tells the true story of British secret-service officer Katharine Gun, who during the immediate run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, leaked a top-secret National Security Agency memo that exposed an illegal U.S.-U.K. spying operation against members of the United Nations Security Council. The memo basically exposed how US and UK blackmailed smaller, undecided member states into voting for war.

In an ideal world, the exposure of such an incriminating document might have unseated two governments and forced the UN Security Council to take a relook at its decision-making body. Unfortunately, nothing like that happened. So what might have developed into an interesting story literally becomes dead meat in uninventive hands. Directed by Gavin Hood from a script by Hood, Gregory Bernstein, and Sarah Bernstein, this film feels rather constrained by its efforts to faithfully follow Gun's travails.

The treatment doesn't have zing, everything is predictable and there's barely any depth to this telling. The by-the-book plotting is a little too straight-forward to mean much. The British Whistleblower's story of how she uncovered the US' dirty trickery seems rather inconsequential when you look at it in the perspective of the consequences that followed, nevertheless. The U.N. approved the Iraq War, and four years to that day, nearly a million were dead, including thousands of U.S. and British soldiers. So what does that say about the governing bodies and the citizens who vote for them?

A deglamorised Keira Knightley as Gun, is shown in the docket for her 2004 trial and then the narrative flashes back to the fateful day at her job where she gets hold of the incriminating memo. While Gun's 2004 ordeal is revelatory of how the moral compass has turned on its head, the film on it does nothing to lend gravitas to the highlighted moment of consequence. Megan Gill's editing chutzpah and Paul Hepker and Mark Kilian's intriguing score try hard to drum up some suspenseful enthusiasm but Hood's narrative sterility fails to evoke much response!

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