Official Secrets

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Official Secrets Movie Poster Image
True whistleblower story is flawed but effective; swearing.
  • R
  • 2019
  • 112 minutes

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

No reviews yetAdd your rating

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Teaches about the act of being a whistleblower and what's at stake in exchange for trying to expose and correct wrongdoing. It's an extraordinary act of bravery and integrity, with great risk involved.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Katharine decides to risk her own safety and comfort -- and that of her loved ones -- to do the right thing. She faces extremely difficult odds. She shows her fear but always keeps going.


Arguing. Threats. Sense of danger. Bombs, war footage on news.


Married couple kisses and is intimate; suggestion of sex.


Uses of "f--k," "s--t," "c--t," "t-ts," "Christ," 'hell," "ass," "a--hole," "tosser," "freakin'," "kinky," "oh my God," and "Jesus Christ" (as exclamations).

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byChester Nimitz September 15, 2019
The movie is absolutely appropriate for young people wanting to believe in humanity, honesty, perseverance and doing the right thing. The over-riding message of... Continue reading

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

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 ...

  • Families can talk about Official Secretsviolence. How much is shown? How much danger is suggested? What's the impact of media violence on kids?

  • Is Katharine a role model? What did she risk? What did she achieve? How would it be to follow in her footsteps? How does she demonstrate integrity?

  • 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?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love dramas

Character Strengths

Find more movies that help kids build character.

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

Streaming options powered by JustWatch

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate