Official Secrets Poster
Directed by Gavin Hood, Official Secrets (2019) is the real life story of Katherine Gun and how she was charged under a breach of the Official Secrets Act when she decided to leak a secret memo by the NSA that gave orders to spy on U.N. Security Council members and blackmail them into voting in favor for a war on Iraq.

Just the plot summary above will give you an expectation of how information heavy and expository the entire movie is. And it lives up to the hype. But the movie never lets the story overwhelm itself. The screenplay is crisp, and it never loses momentum, which it picks up very early in the movie. The story itself is eye-opening and a reminder that NSA was a powerful entity way before smartphones and Wi-Fi existed. It avoids opinions and pointing fingers at the people potentially responsible and keeps it focused on the impact the leak had on Katherine Gun’s life.

The performances are good across the entire cast and special praise obviously goes to Keira Knightley who shows great restraint and gives a grounded but powerful performance. Matt Smith, although, has unusual body language at times and never completely gives in to the emotion required on screen. But it still never feels distracting or withdraws from the overall performance.

My only complaint, which can be a big one, is that multiple characters can feel throwaway. They are solely present to push the story forward by giving out information and it’s hard to understand their motivations or remember them as actual people once the credits roll. And this is something that’s bound to happen with a screenplay like this, so I didn’t worry too much about it. But it is something that can be handled better as we’ve seen with The Big Short (2015).

Ultimately, Official Secrets (2019) is a thoroughly engaging and impactful story about the grey morals around whistleblowing and the policies imposed by governments. And just like Katherine Gun’s story, it is a movie worthy of more attention.

Score: 4/5

Watch Katherine Gun in a panel with Gavin Hood and Martin Bright at Cambridge, here.