Official Secrets Is a Low-key, Paranoid Procedural Drama Done Well

 

 

 

Picture: Nick Wall/IFC Films Bloody hell, the Brits do subtle, paranoid procedural dramas like Authorities Secrets well, with a pervading chill and no flash: The crispness cuts like a knife. In this one, set in 2003 and 2004, pasty white males dispute whether a whistle-blower, Katharine Weapon (Keira Knightley), is a hero or a traitor for dripping a memo from the U.S. directing the U.K.’s GCHQ(Government Communications Head office) to collect dirt on members of the U.N. Security Council. The regulation in itself is sleazy, but it’s the endgame that s monstrous. The G.W. Bush administration has an inkling that no matter just how much fake intel it markets about Saddam Hussein’s links to Al Qaeda and his expected biological/nuclear weapons of mass destruction, few besides Bush lapdog Tony Blair will sanction an invasion of Iraq. Other countries in the U.N. Security Council will require a wee push. An intelligence expert, Gun discovers the rationale for war not simply preposterous but immoral, not to mention unlawful. When that memo —-- composed by a shadowy NSA figure named Frank Koza —-- appears on her computer system screen, her jaw drops.

Knightley has a strong jaw to drop. Slack, it indicates dismay, often outright hopelessness. Set, it signifies gumption. In Official Secrets, it’s slack and set seriatim. Integrate this with eyes that water more frequently than blink and you have an enduring portrait of a conscience in torment. How can Gun not share that memo, with countless lives (British, American, and Iraqi) at stake? Weapon knows that if she’s found she d be prosecuted under the U.K.’s Authorities Tricks Act of 1989, which her Muslim other half Yasar’s immigration status would be at threat. (Yasar is a Kurd, and Kurds were Saddam’s most well-known victims, so it’s not as if she has a loyalty to’the Bachelor's degree athist routine. She has an anti-allegiance.) There are a lot of reasons not to copy the memo, not to slip it to an anti-war ex-colleague who’d slip it to an anti-war activist who’d slip it to a journalist & hellip; She needs to simply keep her head down and do her task.

We understand from the get-go that she didn’t. Official Tricks opens with Weapon in the dock, having actually emerged through a private staircase into the center of a courtroom loaded with white guys in wigs. She is asked, “How do you plead? She opens her mouth and after that the titles state, “One Year Earlier.” So, there s no’thriller over whether she ll leak the memo or be captured-- just over how it all goes down and what will come 90 minutes later, when we get here back in that courtroom. Will she plead guilty and accept her sentence —-- or challenge the government to argue for the war’s legality? The memo, as it happens, winds up in the workplaces of the Observer, which is highly pro-Iraq intrusion however apparently totally free (in the newsroom, anyway) of Blair followers. Bright-eyed Matt Smith is Martin Bright, the press reporter who receives and promotes for the publication of the memo. Matthew Goode (hair cut short, in eyeglasses) is his colleague, Peter Beaumont, who employs his sources to validate the memo’s precision. (Nobody wishes to be hoaxed.) Rhys Ifans in gruff, lumbering, disheveled mode is Ed Vulliamy, the Observer reporter in America who can’t fucking think that his superiors would punt given Bush & & Co. s obvious dissembling. Conleth Hill is a treat as the editor, a negative business male who needs to make the supreme choice to bury the story or risk his paper’s rep. In a long series of scenes (sprinkled with Katharine Weapon’s continuous drama), the Observer press reporters and editors have furtive conferences in clubs, dining establishments, and on tennis courts with guys who understand something or understand somebody who knows something. All of those spoken with (deep background) think the memo is real but can just say so with small twitches and non-denials. Have I discussed how well the Brits do these sorts of scenes? You scan their faces for those twitches, those fleeting immediates when their lips push together and cheeks color ever so a little to signal confirmation.

Ralph Fiennes is the subtlest of them all as the barrister Ben Emmerson, who heads an attire called Liberty that battles for the civil ones. He joins the film midway through when Katharine has been kept in tiny spaces (overhead shot of her tense body on a stiff cot, with only a coat to keep her warm) and followed on buses by guys who live to grimace and menace. Fiennes’s lips and pallor slope naturally towards the clammy, so when late in his first conference with Katharine a faint quarter-smile appears and he states, “You had absolutely nothing to acquire and whatever to lose. I believe this speaks rather highly of you,” you desire to burst into tears. When he informs her, “We re here to help, it s as if God has lastly used to remove a few of the load. All the bad guys in the movie are older white men, so it warms the heart when one comes over to the side of excellent. Even the male we saw play MI-6’s M and Voldemort believes Katharine s a pip. Those are the film’s most pleasurable moments: when numerous people tell the bereft, frightened Katharine that she did the best thing which they’re proud to understand her. Daniel Ellsberg provides her a thumbs-up (not on video camera however we hear about it, which name has a lot weight). We require that reassurance due to the fact that the director, Gavin Hood, has clearly studied the work of such directors as Alan Pakula (there’s a Deep Throat joke throughout a meeting in a parking lot) and understands how to frame Katharine and Matthew Bright and the others to recommend that somebody is watching or someone may appear at any minute, even when nobody is and no one will. It’s even scarier to think that the events of this movie took place 15 years earlier and that security technology has actually come so much further. I can nearly feel my keystrokes being monitored as I compose this. Whistle-blower = YES! Katharine Gun HERO. Official Tricks EXCELLENT:-RRB-!

Seeing the film, you may well recognize that Donald Trump is the best thing from a historical point of view that could have taken place to George W. Bush. When you see Bush saying the danger from Iraq looms —-- a matter of “weeks, not months” — -- with his tongue thrust strangely in between his lips as if signifying his hunger to attack, it will all come flooding back: how cruel and fortunate and criminally careless he and his enablers were. The irony is that the Koza memo that kicks off Authorities Secrets didn’t matter: Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, et al. chose that they wouldn’t need the U.N. s permission. Anyway, the operation would prove a cakewalk!

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