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official secrets

REVIEWER: lyall carter


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.

Typically I don’t catch new movies on a plane as I’ve generally seen all the new fare that airlines have to offer. But Official Secrets was an unusual one. Not getting a general release in New Zealand (still not sure why) I thought I’d catch Official Secrets on my way home a couple of months ago (don’t worry - I didn’t catch anything else). Official Secrets is a compelling dramatic retelling of a true story of a person willing to tell the truth no matter the consequences. 


One day in 2003, in the lead up to the Iraq War, British intelligence specialist Katharine Gun receives a memo from the NSA with a shocking directive: the United States is enlisting Britain's help in collecting compromising information on U.N. Security Council members to blackmail them into voting in favor of an invasion of Iraq. Unable to stand by and watch the world be rushed into war, Gun makes the gut-wrenching decision to defy her government and leak the memo to the press.


Even though technically Official Secrets would be classified as a drama its telling is taut, edge of your seat kinda stuff of the highest order. And it's not just the principal story of Katharine Gun that we follow but we witness all of the ramifications that follow the newspaper and journalists that break her story. It's intriguing and gripping stuff. 


I must admit even though I’m more than a casual consumer of current affairs I don’t remember this story at all. But this is a story that not only demands to be seen but shared around. It is vital that we have not only the press but individual private citizens that hold our governments to account. It is the bedrock of our democracy. 


Even though Keira Knightley swaps her corset for more modern attire she is nonetheless compelling, giving a thoroughly human performance, not reacting the way a Hollywood hero would to the situation but the way you’d expect that you would. Matt Smith, Matthew Goode, and Ralph Fiennes round off this British ensemble cast which is dripping with talent as you would expect.


Official Secrets is a taut, gripping edge of your seat story with a great cast that will thoroughly entertain. 


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Official Secrets is available on disc and digital from all good retailers. 

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