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  • Writer's pictureMax Markowitz

Official Secrets

One of the Year’s Most Gripping Films


Aside from being a true story, I knew little of, Official Secrets is a hands-down, fabulous political thriller I intend to see again as soon as possible.


In 2003, in the lead up to the Iraq War, British intelligence specialist Katharine Gun (Keira Knightley) 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 an illegal war, Gun makes the courageous decision to defy her government and leak the memo to the press.


Official Secrets was not too slow or too fast. The pacing was perfect. From the time the film opens to the moment it closes, you’re all in. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time. My feet shook during multiple scenes. The script was intense, sharp and riveting. It’s as though each line is a person pounding their fists on a locked door screaming to be let out. That’s what Official Secrets was really all about: The truth’s fight to be let out and the dangers that come with exposing the truth.


The cast was fabulous with a capital F. Keira Knightley met the real Katharine Gun before filming began and I could completely tell. The firm posture, heart-pounding silence and disturbing shock Keira Knightley is capable of portraying is that of someone very fearful but not to the point they cave into injustice. Katharine is someone who I have massive respect for not just because of what she did but because of her lack of hesitation in carrying it out.


Katharine’s interrogation scenes were the most terrifying. Each time a question was asked, all the hairs on the back of my neck stood up in perfect posture. Katharine smartly leaked the memo anonymously but she feels in her gut she’ll soon be found out. Once her colleagues start being interrogated, she knows it’s all over. She stands up, slowly walks to the interrogation office and says, It was me. I did it. Each of my neck hairs collapsed to the grounds of my skin as this is the crucial moment Official Secrets reaches its second act.


Matt Smith portrays Martin Bright, the reporter who gets ahold of the memo. The journalism aspect of Official Secrets is equally gripping. I appreciated the suspense that was brought to the film due to Bright's efforts in aiding to unravel the secret. Martin worked really hard to prove the memo is real and I felt it was very respectful that Official Secrets didn’t rush through the scenes highlighting the long hours it took to complete his mission. Matt Smith portrays Martin with a large dose of patience as his paper was not as quick as he is to see the bigger picture in front of them.


Ralph Fiennes portrays Ben Emmerson, the lawyer who takes Katharine’s case upon her persecution. Emmerson is one of those more sensitive lawyers who get overly passionate when someone as remarkable as Katharine needs his help. His admiration for her heroicness is a kind of love in a very touching way.


He’s also a very smart lawyer. He knows just which questions to ask and when to ask them. His legal skills really help in the long run. Even when things get really terrible for Katharine, she fully has his support. Given the time we’re living in, it was very refreshing to see someone say they’re on your side and really mean it. Katharine, Martin and Emmerson’s time on screen and what they do with it leaves me ready to put Official Secrets on the list of great films about people exposing injustice. In my book, Erin Brockovich and Spotlight should welcome Official Secrets with open arms.


Overall, Official Secrets is a very important and overly enjoyable film. I have full confidence that this film will keep audiences on the edge of their seats. I don’t know how high a chance the film has at Oscar nominations but with enough room, I’d say Official Secrets is way overqualified. It’s one of the year’s most gripping films. YOU MUST SEE IT.

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