Official Secrets (film)

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Official Secrets
Official Secrets poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byGavin Hood
Produced by
Screenplay by
  • Gregory Bernstein
  • Sara Bernstein
  • Gavin Hood
Based onThe Spy Who Tried to Stop a War
by Marcia & Thomas Mitchell
Music by
CinematographyFlorian Hoffmeister
Edited byMegan Gill
Distributed by
Release date
  • 28 January 2019 (2019-01-28) (Sundance)
  • 30 August 2019 (2019-08-30) (United States)
  • 18 October 2019 (2019-10-18) (United Kingdom)
Running time
112 minutes
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
Box office$5.5 million[1][2]

Official Secrets is a 2019 British-American docudrama film based on the life of whistleblower Katharine Gun who leaked a memo detailing that the United States had eavesdropped on diplomats from countries tasked with passing a second United Nations resolution on the invasion of Iraq. The film is directed by Gavin Hood, and Gun is portrayed by Keira Knightley. The film also stars Matt Smith, Matthew Goode, Adam Bakri, Indira Varma, and Ralph Fiennes.

The film had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on 28 January 2019 and was released in the United States on 30 August 2019, by IFC Films, and in the United Kingdom on 18 October 2019, by Entertainment One.


The true story of GCHQ employee Katharine Gun, who leaked a secret memo exposing an illegal spying operation by the United States of America, looking for information with which to gauge sentiment of and potentially blackmail United Nations diplomats tasked to vote on a resolution regarding the 2003 invasion of Iraq.[3][4]



The project began development in January 2016, with Harrison Ford, Anthony Hopkins, Paul Bettany, Natalie Dormer and Martin Freeman cast in the film, and a filming start of May announced.[6] Tahar Rahim and Gillian Anderson were cast during the 2016 Berlin International Film Festival.[7][8] However by June 2017, filming had yet to begin, and cast member Anderson stated she hadn't heard anything about the project since being cast.[9]

By January 2018, the project was redeveloped, with Gavin Hood now set to direct in place of Justin Chadwick, and Keira Knightley and Matt Smith cast in February, with the actors initially cast no longer involved in the film. In March, Ralph Fiennes and Matthew Goode joined the cast, with filming beginning on 12 March 2018 in Yorkshire.[10][11][12][13] Filming took place in the village of Boston Spa on 14 March.[14] Indira Varma, Conleth Hill and Tamsin Greig joined the cast the next day.[15] Filming had moved to Manchester by 19 March, serving as a stand-in for London.[16] Filming was undertaken in April 2018 in Liverpool's St George's Hall.[17]


The film had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on 28 January 2019.[18] Shortly after, IFC Films acquired U.S. distribution rights to the film.[19] It was released in the United States on 30 August 2019.[20] It was previously scheduled to be released on 23 August 2019.[21] and in the United Kingdom on 18 October 2019.[22]


On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 82% based on 107 reviews, with an average rating of 6.81/10. The website's critics consensus reads, "Official Secrets has a familiar structure and an obvious if worthy message, but rises on the strength of Keira Knightley's powerful performance."[23]

In an article about the film and Katherine Gun, Sam Husseini wrote that "having followed this story from the start, I find this film to be, by Hollywood standards, a remarkably accurate account of what has happened to date—'to date' because the wider story still isn’t really over".[24]


  1. ^ "Official Secrets". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved November 14, 2019.
  2. ^ "Official Secrets". The Numbers. Retrieved November 14, 2019.
  3. ^ Koza, Frank. "US plan to bug Security Council: the text". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 September 2019.
  4. ^ "Ex-GCHQ officer 'preventing war'". BBC. 27 November 2003. Retrieved 28 December 2013.
  5. ^ Rooney, David (29 January 2019). "'Official Secrets': Film Review Sundance 2019". The Hollywood Reporter.
  6. ^ McNary, Dave (28 January 2016). "Harrison Ford, Anthony Hopkins to Star in Thriller 'Official Secrets'". Variety. Retrieved 12 March 2018.
  7. ^ McNary, Dave (12 February 2016). "Berlin: 'A Prophet' Star Tahar Rahim Joins Harrison Ford in 'Official Secrets' (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved 12 March 2018.
  8. ^ McNary, Dave (13 February 2016). "Berlin: Gillian Anderson Joining Harrison Ford in 'Official Secrets' (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved 12 March 2018.
  9. ^ Pape, Stefan (1 March 2017). ""Things haven't changed" – Gillian Anderson on the relevance of Viceroy's House". Retrieved 12 March 2018.
  10. ^ Cook, Laurence (16 January 2016). "U.K. Greenlit: "Official Secrets," "Mrs. Lowry and Son," BBC's "Les Miserables," + More Start Shooting by Next Month, Need Talent". Backstage. Retrieved 12 March 2018.
  11. ^ Galuppo, Mia (2 February 2018). "Keira Knightley, Matt Smith to Star in Real-Life Spy Thriller 'Official Secrets'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 12 March 2018.
  12. ^ Kay, Jeremy (12 February 2018). "Keira Knightley, Matt Smith to star in 'Official Secrets' (exclusive)". Screendaily. Retrieved 12 March 2018.
  13. ^ Kroll, Justin (8 March 2018). "Ralph Fiennes and Matthew Goode Join Keira Knightley Thriller 'Official Secrets' (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved 12 March 2018.
  14. ^ Newton, Grace (14 March 2018). "Keira Knightley, Ralph Fiennes and Matt Smith film new movie in village near Leeds". The Yorkshire Post.
  15. ^ White, Peter (15 March 2018). "'Game Of Thrones' Indira Varma & Conleth Hill Join Gavin Hood's 'Official Secrets'".
  16. ^ Bardsley, Andrew (19 March 2018). "Manchester transformed into London as Keira Knightley arrives in town for new film". Manchester Evening News.
  17. ^ Houghton, Alistair (28 April 2018). "Revealed: Why Keira Knightley was spotted in Liverpool". Liverpool Echo. Retrieved 28 April 2018.
  18. ^ Patten, Dominic (28 November 2018). "Sundance 2019: Premieres Include Harvey Weinstein Docu, Mindy Kaling, Dr. Ruth, UK Spies, Miles Davis & Ted Bundy".
  19. ^ Siegel, Tatiana (2 February 2019). "Sundance: Keira Knightly Whistleblower Drama 'Official Secrets' Acquired by IFC Films". The Hollywood Reporter.
  20. ^ "Official Secrets". IFC Films. Retrieved June 23, 2019.
  21. ^ Pederson, Erik (2 April 2019). "'Official Secrets': Keira Knightley-Ralph Fiennes Whistleblower Thriller Gets Release Date Via IFC Films". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 12 June 2019.
  22. ^ "Official Secrets: Keira Knightley stars in story of Iraq war whistleblower – trailer". 12 June 2019. Retrieved 12 June 2019.
  23. ^ "Official Secrets (2019)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved October 9, 2019.
  24. ^ Husseini, Sam (30 August 2019). "Film Official Secrets Is Tip of Mammoth Iceberg". FAIR. Retrieved 31 August 2019.

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