Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Official Secrets (2019)

Image is property of Entertainment One

Official Secrets – Film Review

Cast: Keira Knightley, Matt Smith, Matthew Goode, Rhys Ifans, Adam Bakri, Ralph Fiennes, Conleth Hill

Director: Gavin Hood

Synopsis: Telling the true story of a GCHQ employee who, in violation of the Official Secrets Act of 1998, leaked a top secret memo containing information relating to the 2003 Invasion of Iraq to the press.

Review: One of the many wonderful aspects about film is that it can shine a light on an event from decades ago, and reintroduce it into the public consciousness for a whole new generation to learn about. This can also be applicable for historic events set in more modern times, as certain stories can get buried in the sea of round-the-clock news that the world has become. Stories that deserve to be known to people across the globe. One such example is that of a Government employee and her courageous decision to go against her government, at the very real risk of prosecution is a very brave one, especially in this day and age of emotionally charged political discourse.

The government employee in question here is GCHQ employee Katharine Gun (Knightley). On what appears to be a regular work day, an email comes through containing a memo with some top secret information relating to the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, and whether certain countries were being coerced into voting for a resolution to go to war. Feeling that such information deserves to be shared with the wider world, and not buried behind legal barriers, she leaks the memo via a close confidante. Soon enough, the memo lands in the hands of the Press, who are left with their own risky decision as to whether they should invoke the fury of the government, and run the story.

Keira Knightely is an actor who certainly likes to pick roles in period dramas. However, here she comes back to modern(ish) times with a bang. She delivers a sensational performance as the woman who bravely takes a stand, when seemingly no one else would. Even though, such an action comes with the very severe risk of imprisonment. With each word, she displays her bravery and conviction in her belief that what she is doing is unequivocally the right thing to do. This is Knightley’s film and she carries it on her shoulders excellently, but she’s provided with a sea of strong supporting roles. Including the ever likeable Matt Smith as the leading journalist who first picks up the story, and a brief but effective performance from the consistently reliable Ralph Fiennes as the lawyer who represents Gun as she faces the threat of prosecution from the Government.

For a thriller that centres on espionage, especially one that doesn’t fire a single shot, there’s a necessity for a well written, sharp screenplay that keeps the audiences’s attention. There’s a risk that with this subject matter, that it could become perhaps a bit too dreary. However, with a script co-written by Gavin Hood, Gregory Bernstein and Sara Bernstein, the intrigue and the suspense is maintained throughout the film. Though there are one or two moments that feel somewhat overly dramatised, the film never fails to be gripping. As the top secret document passes from numerous parties, all while the very real threat of prosecution hangs over Katharine Gun’s shoulders.

For a film that depicts events that are relatively speaking, not actually that long ago, there’s a very important message in this film that needs to be seized upon and relayed the world over. Namely, that a time when governments the world over are under intense scrutiny, every day, people like Katharine Gun are standing up for what’s right and calling into account actions that must be brought into the public domain for everyone to know about. Furthermore, to ensure that in the future, damning information such as is not buried under mountains of government paperwork, only to be locked into a safe, never to be spoken about again.

With a magnificent lead performance from Knightley, Official Secrets brings to light a story of paramount importance, and one woman’s brave fight against her Government that feels extremely timely in this day and age of bitterly-divided, partisan politics.

Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

V For Vendetta (2005)

Image is property of Warner Bros, Virtual Studios, Silver Pictures and Anarchos Productions

V for Vendetta – Film Review

Cast: Hugo Weaving, Natalie Portman, John Hurt, Stephen Rea, Stephen Fry, Tim Piggott-Smith

Director: James McTeigue

Synopsis: A freedom fighter, known only as V, is on a mission to bring down a Fascist regime in London by any means necessary.

Review: “Remember, remember the 5th of November, the gunpowder treason and plot. I know of no reason, why the gunpowder treason, should ever be forgot.” A powerful quote and one that is central to this thrilling and mysterious film. V, inspired by Guy Fawkes, is a man on a mission to free Britain from a government that has clamped down on individual freedom and free speech, with his ultimate goal being what Guy Fawkes tried to do, destroy the Houses of Parliament. Anyone who steps out of line, is whisked away and never to be seen again. At the same time, the press is strongly regulated to prevent anyone from speaking out.

Whilst on his mission to bring down the government, he encounters Evey (Natalie Portman) a young woman who aids him in his quest to liberate Britain. V is the one who commits a number of acts and speaks out against the government that has a powerful grip on the country.  His actions and intentions spark a mass panic by the government who brand him a terrorist and set out on a mission to stop him at all costs.

As the film is a politically driven one, there is a considerable amount of dialogue in the film. While this could result in the film suffering from a lack of pace, the dialogue is fascinating as we understand the actions that the Government has taken in order to suppress the people and what drives V to become the masked freedom fighter he is. While the majority of the film consists of dialogue, there are some outstanding action scenes as Norsefire’s Secret Police, The Finger, led by the odious Mr Creedy, a man with no morals whatsoever. (Tim Piggott-Smith) seek to stop V’s “terrorism.”

Hugo Weaving, although he initially was not the first choice for the role, was a perfect choice for the role of V. He delivered his lines, some of which are very memorable, perfectly and the audience really understands what his motives are. He is not an evil man; he simply seeks to bring the Norsefire reign of tyranny to a swift end. Natalie Portman delivers a strong performance as Evey whose life is transformed and changed forever by V. John Hurt portrays the menacing leader of the Norsefire Party, Adam Sutler. Piggott-Smith is perfect as the repulsive Mr Creedy, and Stephen Rea delivers a sound performance as Inspector Finch, the man who has been tasked with stopping V, whilst realising the true nature of the Norsefire regime and its past crimes against its own people. The film suffered a little bit with its pacing as it is a dialogue driven film and thus the plot slowed down at times.

Nevertheless, the film was still a very enjoyable and thought provoking story that left its mark on me. Hugo Weaving was superb as V and has some truly unforgettable quotes. While there is not much action, the action scenes that are in the film are excellent.

With sterling work from Weaving and Hammond, visually stunning and a well crafted story that is full of themes and ideas, V for Vendetta particularly in this day and age, is a film that has messages that may ring true today.

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