Review: Whistleblower drama 'Official Secrets' values truth
Keira Knightley stars in film which revisits origins of America's war with Iraq
Katharine Gun is livid.
On television, Tony Blair is insisting that Saddam Hussein is stockpiling weapons of mass destruction, pushing the George W. Bush party line and helping steer the United States toward war with Iraq. "Just because you’re the prime minister," Gun hisses in the direction of the TV, "doesn’t mean you get to make up your own facts!”
Ah, 2003. We were so innocent then, weren't we?
It doesn't have to try hard, but it's a credit to "Official Secrets" that it ties its story of recent history to government corruption that runs rampant today. It's also a credit to this talky drama that a scene of photocopying makes for high tension.
Gun, played by Keira Knightley in a headstrong performance, is the employee at Britain's Government Communications Headquarters who leaked documents exposing illegal U.S. spying and attempts to stronghold a U.N. vote to support the invasion of Iraq. It sounds like a C-SPAN-sponsored movie of the week, but director Gavin Hood ("Eye in the Sky") focuses on the humanity of Gun's plight, and the personal toll the act of whistleblowing takes on her and her life.
He also tells the story of the journalists who break Gun's story, and how their scoop is derailed when a copy editor innocently changes the word "favorite" to the UK spelling, raising doubt to the validity of their sourcing. Everybody needs an editor, folks.
"Official Secrets" shows the courage it takes to stand up for what's right, even when literally every other route is easier. Like the whistleblower at its center, "Official Secrets" has backbone and conviction, something we could use more of today.
Rated R: for language
Running time: 112 minutes