As irony would have it, this week marks the 18th anniversary of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. This was the pretext the George W. Bush administration claimed for launching the U.S. war on Iraq — a pretext that soon proved to be completely erroneous.
The dogged US insistence that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction that put lives at risk, globally, was the only tenuous thread by which the invasion of Iraq might be legitimized on the world stage. Of course, no WMDs were ever discovered, but by then, one of the most devastating and entirely illegal wars in which U.S. troops (among many others) have ever bled and died was well underway.
All of which provides background for Official Secrets. There's nothing slick or flashy about Gavin Hood's tightly constructed and efficient suspense drama. Less a conventional thriller than what you might call an investigative procedural, it zeroes in on a few intrepid individuals facing tough moral choices when they begin to uncover the campaign of misinformation and manipulation the U.S. is using to sell the war.
|Smith as reporter Martin Bright: back when the truth mattered|
Katharine is played with stoic determination by Keira Knightley. Although fearful of the consequences, she's so outraged at how the public is being misled in the rush to war, she stands by her actions and her principles all the way to the Queen's Bench.
Ralph Fiennes is terrific, as usual, as Katharine's lawyer, Ben Emmerson, an expert in human rights and international law. Other familiar faces doing a stand-up job are Matt Smith as Martin Bright, the reporter for The Observer who broke the story, Conleth Hill (Lord Varys from Game Of Thrones), unrecognizable as Bright’s feisty, foul-mouthed newspaper editor, and Jack Farthing (the odious villain in Poldark) as Katharine's chipper cubicle-mate at GCHQ.
In a way, the movie almost makes one nostalgic for the Bush era, when the revelation of such bald-faced lying and corruption still had the power to incite outrage and moral courage.
Those were the days.
(Read more in this week's Good Times)