(director: Gavin Hood; screenwriters: Gregory and Sarah Bernstein/(based on the book “The Spy Who Tried to Stop a War: Katharine Gun and the Secret Plot to Sanction the Iraq Invasion” by Marcia and Thomas Mitchell; cinematographer: Florian Hoffmeister; editor: Megan Gill; music: Mark Kilian/Paul Hepker; cast: Keira Knightley (Katharine Gun), Adam Bakri (Yasar), Rhys Ifans (Ed Vulliamy), Inira Varma (Shami Chakrabarti), Ralph Fiennes (Ben Emmerson), Matthew Goode (Peter Beaumont), Matt Smith (Martin Bright), Jack Farthing (Andy Dumfries); Runtime: 112; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Elizabeth Fowler/Melissa Shiyu Zuo/Ged Doherty; IFC; 2019)
“A dry but earnest political film based on real events.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
It’s a dry but earnest political film based on real events. It’s about the bravery of a 28-year-old whistleblower, a translator in British intelligence, Katharine Gun (Keira Knightley), who tried stopping the unfortunate Iraq War by leaking a top-secret document and ended up being charged with treason (charged under the Official Secrets Act) that went to trial in 2004. Director Gavin Hood (“Eye in the Sky”/”Ender’s Game”) does a good job getting us to see things through Gun’s eyes, in 2003, as she’s repulsed at US and UK leaders for making in public false claims about the increasingly perilous situation in Iraq. Gun goes into action when she receives an email from the United States National Security Agency telling her department to smear if necessary UN Security Council swing-vote nations (“Angola, Cameroon, Chile, Bulgaria and Guinea”) to help the hawks secure a war resolution. The drama is on solid ground when following her story, but loses some of its power when drifting off to a number of subplots. It also suffers from a lack of energetic visuals.
Gun’s decision to act against her bosses comes with serious personal risks. For openers, her Kurdish immigrant Turkish husband’s (Adam Bakri) status of staying in Great Britain as an asylum seeker is put at risk. The suspense builds as Knightley is singled-out for punitive action by her government. But during the ordeal the principled translator remains troubled but confident that she did the right thing to serve the public interest above all else.
At The Observer news room, we observe Martin Bright (Matt Smith) and his fellow journalists work hard to confirm her reveal. She receives public support and wise legal strategy from Ben Emmerson (Ralph Fiennes), the passionate leader of the Liberty’s advocacy group.
Knightley is convincing as the unassuming heroine, and her true performance holds this sometimes tedious history lesson of a film together with some Hollywood-like dramatically cherished moments like other solid political films such as “All The President’s Men.” I just wish I could of enjoyed the film more, since I find the heroine’s story most compelling.
REVIEWED ON 8/27/019 GRADE: B-