Official Secrets tells the true story of whistle blower Katharine Gun and her attempt to stop the Iraq War.
On a seemingly ordinary day in 2003, in the lead up to the Iraq War, British Intelligence specialist Katharine Gun (Keira Knightley) receives a memo that had the potential to change the course of history. The NSA issue a shocking directive: to help the United States gather compromising information on U.N. Security Council members in a bid to blackmail them into voting in favour of an invasion of Iraq.
However, unable to stand by and play a part in an illegal war, Gun decides to breach the Official Secrets act and leaks the memo to the press.
While she attempts to cover her tracks, eventually the truth comes out. Is Gun a criminal or incredibly brave, putting everything she holds dear on the line for the future of the country?
I am aware of Gun’s story more than most. At the time two men I went to school with were on active duty and, aware that war was looming, I kept myself in the loop of developments in between my journalism studies.
The mood in the country at the time was that the majority of the public didn’t want to go to war, that they didn’t believe that these so-called ‘weapons of mass destruction’ existed. Gunn’s memo did the rounds in the press, with many not convinced by its authenticity, or too scared to cover it for fear of being prosecuted.
But eventually Martin Bright at The Observer (played by Matt Smith) takes the plunge and after a series of fact checking and tense meetings, they publish the memo. After seeing the secret note in print Gun is aware the matter is out of her hands, nausea taking grip of her instantly. Her life will never be the same, she faces jail time, her husband may be deported, but she maintains it was all worth it. Knightley doesn’t play Gun as a martyr, just someone trying to do the right thing.
When Gun was asked why she leaked the memo to the press, she famously responded: “I work for the British people. I do not gather intelligence so the government can lie to the British people.” The investigation into Gun dragged on for over a year, and in the meantime war on Iraq was declared.
Official Secrets is Keira Knightley’s best movie since The Imitation Game. In fact, it may be her best performance to date. It’s a bold movie with a great deal of heart and shows the impact that just one person can have.
The movie concludes by detailing the number of civilians and military killed during the Iraq War. It shows the human cost of war. For me it’s a reminder of my brave schoolmate Leading Aircraftman Martin Beard who was killed while serving in Basra on August 7th 2007.
By Ruth Walker