Jack Hobson reviews Official Secrets, showing in our cinema until Thursday 12 December.
Director Gavin Hood has taken a certainly complex subject and created an engaging narrative in a docudrama form, unveiling with clarity the real life story behind whistleblower Katharine Gun.
Official Secrets takes an alternative approach to the spy genre through the particularly candid portrayal of Katharine Gun, played excellently by Kiera Knightley, demonstrating how narratives can be suspenseful and shocking without cheap jumpscares or Michael Bay-esque pyrotechnic explosions and fire.
The narrative is well-paced, not lingering long on the convoluted details that are undoubtedly involved in such a case and explores both the whistleblowers worklife and homelife with a deft hand. Kiera Knightley’s character deconstructs the macho masculinity of the spy/espionage trope originated by the likes of James Bond and instead establishes a vulnerable but strong female lead who feels relatable and real as we see her not only translating classified intel but also laying at home on the sofa.
The film however seems to lack dramatic climaxes, making scenes feel somewhat tedious at points and the suspense established perhaps never getting the conclusion it deserved. Moreover a number of the dramatic events ironically take place in an office of grey printers and computers, distractingly taking away the seriousness of situations. This although lends further the feeling that the director stayed true to the real events of 2003, remaining respectful and honest to his subject rather than becoming a generic action film. Because of this Gavin Hood ultimately asks his audience to have patience, however patience pays off as I found I left satisfied due to the strikingly informative role which the film takes as a docudrama.
Official Secrets concretely establishes a social and cultural importance through the successfully entertaining portrayal of such elaborate events. With an excellent cast and talented storytelling, the film has the possibility of teaching younger generations of undeniably important political happenings.