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Official Secrets Review: Whistleblower’s Tale That We Cannot Afford To Miss



Official Secrets(Amazon Prime)

Starring Keira Knightley, Matt Smith

Directed  by Gavin Hood

Rating: ****(4 stars)

In a world where questioning the  government has become  a  serious health hazard,Official Secrets is a film that must be seen by every  individual  in  a  democratic or non-democratic  country. What  it says about the need  for transparency in the power-corridors  goes beyond the precincts  of  a cinematic experience.

As  I watched Katharine Gun(significant  surname , considering her  lethal aim) grapple with the  imtimidating  aftermath  of a singular act of bravery whereby she exposed  the British government’s collaborative  designs  with America to precipitate  that  devastating 2003 war invasion of Iraq, I thought to myself: is this woman brave or  just stupid? By giving out a State secret  she exposes herself  to charges of sedition.But then sedition is when you act against your country. Katharine acted against the British government. There is a radical difference.

I  mean , think  what would happen to her in India! Think  of  how much courage it takes to take  on the Government.As  the indomitable  hero of  these volatile times,Keira Knightley furnishes her character  with an innermost determination and a resolve to  face the  consequences  of  her brave act.

 Happily Official  Secrets is much more  than a chest-thumping  selfcongratulatory piece  of  celluloid drama designed  to  give recognition  to an unsung hero(ine). Yes, it’s  suffused in the spririt  of  valour and  conviction. But  the narrative never spins into a  dizzying display  of   showoffy daredevilry. The fears, doubts, anxieties  of  Katharine’s  character  are remarkably  reified  in the frames, shot in dark striking  crimson hues.

The film is dark but never  overbearingly so. The narrative does lean  towards a spot  of racy  entertainment. For instance  Katharine’s chase to stop her  Turkish Muslim  husband(Adam Bakri)’s  overnight deportation seemed like  a bit of fudged entertainment in the midst  of a drama that  never seems  doctored  or  dishonest.

The way in which director  Gavin Hood  portrays the proceedings in  the newsroom of  the  Observer(the London newspaper which broke Katharine’s  leaked information on the planned UK-US strategy against  Iraq) or in Katharine’s interactions with her colleagues at  her workplace , the  storytelling reveals how deep is the director’s empathy with the politics  of the workplace.

Besides Keira Knightley who is a force of nature as Katherine Gun,Ralph Fiennes is brilliantly reined-in  as her  lawyer. Incidentally IndiraVerma(remember her aeons ago in Mira Nair’s Kamasutra?) plays one of  the lawyers   on Fiennes’ team. And Matt Smith as  the Observer  journalist who  broke the  scoop, is just the  scribe that this pungently credible  political drama needed.

You can’t afford to miss Official Secrets. The experience of watching one brave woman take on the State is so immersive , I felt my breath being choked by powers-that-be  that  I couldn’t control. No one can.

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