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Arts and Entertainment Tuesday, Sep. 17, 2019 1 year ago

In 'Official Secrets,' the air of suspense is thick

Like you don't want to know about most chilling thrillers, the film is based on a true story.

"Official Secrets" is a riveting, chilling thriller. It will astound some and leave others in disbelief. But keep in mind, it is a true story unknown to most.

In 2003, Katharine Gun (Keira Knightley), a British intelligence employee, received a top secret memo that indicated that the U.S. and U.K. were looking for dirt to blackmail UN diplomats into voting in favor of invading Iraq. If she leaked the information to the news media, it would constitute a breach of the Official Secrets Act. If she did not, her country and the U.S. would be led into an illegal war. 

Given the consequences of doing nothing and her loyalty to the British people, Katharine exposes the the classified data to the press. Immediately, she is charged with leaking top secrets and hires a lawyer (Ralph Fiennes). His strategy is to more or less blackmail her accusers by threatening to go public at trial citing the illegality of such a war. Fearing fierce fallout, the charges are dropped against her. And the U.K./U.S. proceed merrily into war.

Director Gavin Hood ("Eye in the Sky") clearly puts forth that false evidence of WMDs and Iraq having no links to Al-Qaeda after 9/11 obviously had no bearing on starting a war. It took dirty tricks. The air of suspense is thick throughout the film, sans any violence. We never doubt for a moment that Katharine is a patriot and not a traitor. Hood's knack for perfect pacing and the employment of actual news footage keeps us engaged. 

A gifted cast elevates the storyline to such personal levels that the intrigue is intensified. Rhys Ifan is especially engaging as an angry journalist hell-bent on exposing the truth. Matthew Goode and Matt Smith work well off each other as seasoned reporters. But it's Knightley who owns "Official Secrets." Her portrayal of a woman torn is played with such touching conviction that it's thrilling to observe.

Justice prevailed for Katharine Gun, but it did not for those who deceived us into a monstrous war that claimed over a million lives. It destabilized the Middle East for decades to come. In 2003, American news outlets ignored the story, which begs the question: Why? 

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