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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Official Secrets is a drama based on the true story of whistleblower Katharine Gun (Keira Knightley), who leaked information about the United States' attempt to blackmail members of the UN into supporting the 2003 war against Iraq. Expect strong language, including uses of "f--k," "s--t," "t-ts," and more. There's some arguing and danger and war footage on the TV news, including bombs exploding. A married couple kisses and is intimate in bed (sex is suggested but not shown). Directed by Gavin Hood, the film is uneven and a bit flat, but it gets by on its righteous outrage and scary relevance and is worth seeing for older teens and adults.
What's the story?
In OFFICIAL SECRETS, Katharine Gun (Keira Knightley) works as a British intelligence specialist. In 2003, she receives a memo detailing how the United States is asking Britain to help collect information about five nations in the United Nations in order to blackmail them into voting in favor of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. After much deliberation, Katharine decides to leak the memo to the press. Thanks to Britain's "official secrets" act, everyone in her office becomes subject to ruthless interrogations in order to find the whistleblower, and Katharine confesses. But her troubles are only beginning, since the Observer decides to publish the memo, and Katharine's husband, Yasar (Adam Bakri), a refugee from Turkey, finds himself in danger of being deported. With everything to lose, Katharine places her trust in the hands of brilliant lawyer Ben Emmerson (Ralph Fiennes) and awaits her trial.
Is it any good?
Wordy, disjointed, and not exactly dynamic or visual, this fact-based political drama nonetheless gets by on sheer righteous anger, painful relevance, and a few stand-up-and-cheer moments. Official Secrets gets a large portion of its strength from Knightley, whose Katharine is seen early on during her free time shouting at Tony Blair on TV. She must sell a character who's beholden to her better instincts, and suffers to the point that she would put herself and her husband in danger to set things right; Knightley does this admirably.
Directed by Gavin Hood (who doesn't quite reach the highs of his Eye in the Sky), the movie does spend long chunks away from Katharine. But fortunately, it sometimes turns into a crackling newspaper movie, with Matthew Goode, Rhys Ifans, and Matt Smith filling out the requisite colorful journalist roles. While the film struggles to make memos and meetings and editing decisions into cinema -- and struggles equally with half-baked, ill-placed attempts at suspense -- Official Secrets regularly rediscovers threads of tension and keeps things moving, and Fiennes' late-entry performance helps carry the story ably toward the finale.
Talk to your kids about ...
What is a whistleblower? Why are their actions so dangerous?
Why must the newspaper be so careful about what it publishes?
Why should Katharine's husband be in danger of being deported? What, if anything, has he done wrong?
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