First Hit: I really enjoyed this film not only because of the exceptional acting but also because I learned about this brave individual.
Katharine Gun (Keira Knightley) worked for the British Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) as part of British Intelligence. Her mandarin language translation skills from living all around Asia as a child, helped the agency translate tapped intercepted telephone conversations and write reports about them. Her job was to help prevent terrorist activities and attacks in Britain.
One day she receives an email with an attached memo stating that the United States and Britain were going to coerce votes from small United Nations members to influence the support for invading Iraq. George Bush and his team of people wanted to invade Iraq after 9-11, and he wanted to do it legally with United Nations support. Manufacturing evidence (WMDs) and using this coercion of small nations, they would get UN approval to bomb the hell out of Iraq. Bush wanted to prove that the US was doing something about the 9-11 attack and he felt his father the senior Bush didn’t do enough when they’d previously invaded Iraq.
The attached memo was seen by Gun as collusion between England and the US to enter this war illegally. With a deep sense of purpose to stop this illegal action and from the potential deaths of fellow Englishmen, US soldiers and possibly thousands of Iraqi citizens, she prints a copy of the memo and gives this copy to a friend who will give it to the press. Three weeks go by, and it isn’t published, but finally Martin Bright (Matt Smith) of The Observer decides, after doing their due diligence, to release the memo in full and all hell breaks loose.
Scotland Yard starts their investigation at GCHQ and shortly after the interviews begin, Katharine admits she leaked the memo in violation of the Official Secrets Act. After threatening and harassing her and her husband Yasar (Adam Bakri), even arresting him and attempt to deport him, eight months later the government decides to formally charge Gun.
Obtaining Ben Emerson (Ralph Fiennes) a volunteer lawyer, through a public legal group, they decide to take on the government. By investigating authorized personnel in the government that had initially told Prime Minister Tony Blair that his actions would be illegal, they decided to fight the case. Because it is public knowledge, I’ll share that the government exonerated Gun from the crimes she committed even though she confessed to leaking the document.
This was a great story and one I knew nothing about until seeing this film.
Knightley is fantastic as Gun. Her ability to be fragile, scared, and brave, all at once is perfect for this film. Great casting call. Smith, as Bright was excellent. His drive to publish the article was strong. His look when someone on their staff used “spellcheck” on his story and changed the spelling of key words was perfect. Bakri as Gun’s husband was wonderful. His caring support of Katharine felt genuine. Fiennes was excellent as Gun’s lawyer, and the scene at the end of the film when he asks his friend to leave the spot where he’s fishing is pointed about how things have to change. Rhys Ifans was fabulous as US investigative reporter Ed Vulliamy. His outrageous drive helped to secure the information needed to validate the information in the leaked memo. Everyone in this film was good and, of course, seeing the real Katharine Gun in film footage was perfect. Gregory Bernstein, Sara Bernstein, and Gavin Hood did a fantastic job of creating a compelling screenplay. Hood got terrific performances from the entire crew and actors.
Overall: This film is a potent reminder that we have to live our truth and be willing to stand up for what is right.