Official Secrets won the Best Feature Film award at the Provincetown International Film Festival. Based on world-shaking true events, Official Secrets tells the gripping story of Katharine Gun (Keira Knightley), a British intelligence specialist whose job involves routine handling of classified information. One day in 2003, in the lead up to the Iraq War, Gun receives a memo from the NSA with a shocking directive: the United States is enlisting Britain’s help in collecting compromising information on United Nations Security Council members in order to blackmail them into voting in favor of an invasion of Iraq. Unable to stand by and watch the world be rushed into an illegal war, Gun makes the gut-wrenching decision to defy her government and leak the memo to the press. So begins an explosive chain of events that will ignite an international firestorm, expose a vast political conspiracy, and put Gun and her family directly in harm’s way.
‘I work for the British people. I gather intelligence so that the government can protect the British people,’ Gun tells her interrogators. ‘I don’t object to being asked to collect information that could help prevent a terror attack. What I object to is being asked to gather intelligence to help fix a vote at the UN and deceive the world into going to war.’
Matt Smith, Ralph Fiennes and the rest of the supporting cast contribute nicely to the carefully balanced ensemble. Shaun Dooley (Gentleman Jack), as Gun’s interrogator, is particularly memorable for his laser-focused intensity. But it’s Knightley who lights her usual fire under everything. From Pride & Prejudiceto Atonement to Anna Karenina to The Imitation Game, Knightley has shown not just that she’s one of the greatest actors of her generation, but that she is one of the best at picking projects. And even if you’re one of the few stalwarts who still thinks the Iraq War was worth the agonizingly high toll in lives, treasure and geo-political brouhaha, you will root for Gun because of Knightley’s astonishing ability to connect to her audience and her fellow actors.
Ten years after the story broke, Observer journalist Martin Bright reflected on his journalistic coup by interviewing Gun. Fearing her heroic act had been forgotten, she lamented, “It’s not even a footnote in the history of Iraq.” Thanks to this film, it’s now a chapter.
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Venue: William Loveless Hall