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Official Secrets (2019)

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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.

Director:

Gavin Hood

Writers:

Gregory Bernstein (screenplay), Sara Bernstein (screenplay) | 3 more credits »
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224 ( 74)
2 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Credited cast:
Keira Knightley ... Katharine Gun
Matthew Goode ... Peter Beaumont
Katherine Kelly ... Jacqueline Jones
Ralph Fiennes ... Ben Emmerson
Indira Varma ... Shami Chakrabarti
Matt Smith ... Martin Bright
Rhys Ifans ... Ed Vulliamy
MyAnna Buring ... Jasmine
Kenneth Cranham ... Judge Hyam
Jack Farthing ... Andy Dumfries
Tamsin Greig ... Elizabeth Wilmshurst
Hattie Morahan ... Yvonne Ridley
Jeremy Northam ... Ken MacDonald
Conleth Hill ... Roger Alton
Hanako Footman ... Nicole Mowbray
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Storyline

A morality tale for the 21st century, Official Secrets tells the true story of British Intelligence whistle-blower Katharine Gun who, during the immediate run-up to the 2003 Iraq invasion, leaked a top secret NSA memo exposing a joint US-UK illegal spying operation against members of the UN Security Council. The memo proposed blackmailing smaller, undecided member states into voting for war. At great personal and professional risk, journalist Martin Bright published the leaked document in The Observer newspaper in London, and the story made headlines around the world. Members of the Security Council were outraged and any chance of a UN resolution in favour of war collapsed. But within days, Bush declared he no longer needed UN backing and invaded anyway. As Iraq descended into chaos, Katharine was arrested and charged with breaching the Official Secrets Act. Martin faced potential charges too. Their legal battles exposed the highest levels of government in both London and Washington ...

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Based on the Untold True Story See more »


Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Details

Official Sites:

Official site

Country:

UK | USA

Language:

English | Mandarin

Release Date:

30 August 2019 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Segredos Oficiais See more »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$64,965, 1 September 2019

Gross USA:

$1,882,911

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$2,297,683
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Color:

Color
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Did You Know?

Trivia

This is the second time Keira Knightley and Ralph Fiennes have starred alongside each other, the first being in The Duchess (2008) See more »

Quotes

GCHQ Woman: Someone in this building has betrayed their country. If you are found to have withheld information, you will be charged with a breach of the Official Secrets Act.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Good Morning Britain: Episode dated 11 October 2019 (2019) See more »

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User Reviews

 
true dilemma
30 August 2019 | by ferguson-6See all my reviews

Greetings again from the darkness. Doing the right thing is usually pretty easy. However a person's true character is revealed when it's not so easy. In 2003, doing the right thing became very difficult for Brit Katharine Gun. How difficult? Well, her decision could jeopardize her job. It's a decision that could get her husband deported. Making the choice could expose two powerful international governments and send her to prison for many years. And if that's not enough risk, how about a decision that could lead to a huge (possibly illegal) war, costing thousands of lives? So you know what Katharine Gun did? She did the right thing.

Keira Knightley stars as Katharine Gun. The film opens in 2004 with her facing a British court and the moment of her plea. We then flashback one year to see Katharine working as a staff member of GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters). She spends her days translating and compiling intelligence for the British Government. It's a job that requires the utmost discretion and the contractual obligation to keep work secrets at work. One day she reads a top secret memo making it clear that governments were conspiring to manipulate a United Nations vote required to authorize an invasion of Iraq.

Based on the (lengthy titled) book "The Spy who Tried to Stop a War: Katharine Gun and the Secret Plot to Sanction the Iraq Invasion" by Martha Mitchell and Thomas Mitchell, the film is directed by Gavin Hood (the excellent TSOTSI, 2005) who co-wrote the screenplay with Gregory Bernstein and Sara Bernstein. It's presented as a moral quandary for Katharine. Say nothing and maintain the status quo in her personal and professional life, or speak up and risk everything noted above. We see Katharine's impulsive decision-making, and behavior that would rank her among history's least likely successful spies. It's actually her naivety that guides her to speak up.

The media side is also addressed here, and although some terrific actors are involved, this segment is the film's slickest and least realistic. Matt Smith plays political reporter Martin Bright and Rhys Ifans plays Ed Volliamy. The two journalists for "The Observer" worked together to verify the memo leaked by Ms. Gun, and Matthew Goode is Peter Beaumont, the editor who pushed to run the story. Previously, the paper had been an avid supporter of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and took many of their stories directly from information provided by his office. Running the story exposed the paper to scrutiny that it was not accustomed to.

Where the film excels is in exploring Katharine's personal turmoil. It's also where it fails us as viewers. As her personal story, the subject matter is a unique and rare look at the wheels of government intelligence. Unfortunately, an inordinate amount of time is spent on the media and reporting, and not enough on what emotional torture the year of waiting must have been for her. Ralph Fiennes plays Ben Emmerson, the lead attorney for Liberty - the legal organization who takes on Katharine's case. It's the legal wranglings of this complex case that make for extraordinary drama, and the fallout of her personal choices had the potential for disaster. All of this is covered in a cursory manner, when more detail would have added more heft to a fascinating story. This includes her run-ins with an MI5 agent played superbly by Peter Guiness. The Official Secrets Act of 1989 is mentioned about 10 times, even though we understand pretty quickly that actions against this law likely results in treason. Ms. Gun is a hero for exposing illegal government activity, and a more intimate look at her personal turmoil would have provided more suspense and a better connection for the viewer.


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