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Film Of The Week Top Gun

Keira Knightley is superb as the GCHQ whistleblower who breached the Official Secrets Act in the run-up to the 2003 Iraq war, says MARIA DUARTE

Official Secrets (15)
Directed by Gavin Hood

BASED on the true story of British whistleblower Katharine Gun, who put her career and family on the line in an attempt to stop the Iraq war in 2003, this sharp political thriller still resonates loudly.

Gun, played superbly by Keira Knightley, was a Mandarin translator at GCHQ who leaked an email to The Observer in which the US spook agency the NSA asked Britain to gather intelligence —  or dirt — on certain members of the UN security council to persuade them to vote in favour of the invasion of Iraq.

Sadly, Gun failed and to avoid a witch-hunt of her colleagues she confessed to her actions. She was charged with breaching the Official Secrets Act but wasn’t taken to court until a year later. In the meantime, her Turkish husband was threatened with deportation.

Official Secrets is Gavin Hood’s follow-up to his riveting military drama Eye in the Sky and it is just as tense and gripping, with equally superlative performances from its A-list cast.

It asks the key moral question: is it right for a government employee to leak state secrets if it is in the national interest?

Grilled by her interrogator, who reminds her that she works for the British government, a steely Gun replies: “No. I work for the British people. I do not gather intelligence so the government can lie to the British people.”

The film also depicts the painstaking work carried out by The Observer journalist Martin Bright (Matt Smith) to verify the authenticity of the email, with the help of his colleagues Ed Vulliamy (Rhys Ifans on fiery form) and Peter Beaumont (Matthew Goode).

Like a rabbit caught in headlights you watch the joy and success of them breaking such a major news story turn to horror when the leaked email is deemed to be fake because it featured English not American spellings, due to an overzealous intern using a spellcheck. It’s one of the most priceless moments in the film.

There’s an extraordinary ending to Gun’s story— no spoilers — and at a time when governments are still lying to the public, it’s to be hoped that there are more people like Gun willing to do what it takes to tell the truth.

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