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film review

Keira Knightley stars as Katharine Gun in Official Secrets.Courtesy of Entertainment One

  • Official Secrets
  • Directed by Gavin Hood
  • Written by Gregory Bernstein, Sara Bernstein and Gavin Hood (based on The Spy Who Tried to Stop a War, by Marcia Mitchell and Thomas Mitchell)
  • Starring Keira Knightley, Matt Smith, Matthew Goode, Adam Bakri, Indira Varma, Rhys Ifans and Ralph Fiennes
  • Classification: 14A
  • 112 minutes


3 out of 4 stars

Keira Knightley’s character violates Britain’s Official Secrets Act some 10 minutes into the brooding docu-thriller Official Secrets, which is about 9:59 after the actress violates her unofficial insistence on period dramas only. But if there is no bustle to her usual bustle, there is absolutely a bee in Knightley’s bonnet.

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She portrays Katharine Gun, a British intelligence translator who leaked top-secret information concerning international arm-twisting by the United States in its hell-bent push for the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The film’s trailer suggests a level of suspense the film itself fails to deliver, especially for audiences groomed on gun silencers, fog-set intrigue or something like director Gavin Hood’s excellent Eye in the Sky from 2015. No, this well-acted political drama plays out in the open, with fewer spies coming in from the cold – although Knightley does don a heavy scarf against the overcast weather – and more truth-to-power righteousness of, say, The Post. (Speaking of which, people who make their livings in newsrooms will get a kick out of a fantastic spellcheck scene.)

While Rhys Ifans chews scenery as a scruff-faced foreign correspondent, Knightley plays it taut and believable, and, as we know, nobody walks on cobblestones better than she. The end result is a professionally made film that is whistle-blowingly relevant, starring an excellent actor who successfully comes in from her Pride & Prejudice past.

Official Secrets opens Sept. 13.