Phil’s choice this week was Official Secrets (2019). Directed by Gavin Hood, and is a docudrama regarding the whistleblower Katherine Gun, portrayed here by Kiera Knightly. The basic plot – can it be called a ‘plot’ when it’s actually the truth of something? Not sure, anyway I digress. Shaddap Fraggle and tell’em what it’s about. Also I’m doing spoilers here as it’s actually yer real life shit.
Gun worked at GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters) in Cheltenham, where she translated Mandarin Chinese into English. However, in January 2003 she and her collegues received a top-secret email from Frank Koza, the chief of staff at the “regional targets” division in the NSA of America. The email requested GB’s help in secretly bugging the United Nations offices of six nations, Angola, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Chile, Guinea, and Pakistan. These nations were ‘swing nations’ i.e they could affect the vote to determine whether the UN approved the invasion of Iraq. This plan may well have contravened Articles 22 and 27 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which regulates global diplomacy. Gun secretly printed out the email, and took it to her friend Yvonne, who was involved in an anti-war group, to have it investigated further. Then she more or less forgets about it.
The movie then shows what happens as the email is passed to a reporter for the Observer Newspaper, Martin Bright, played by Matt Smith, and the investigations he and colleagues have to do to firstly substantiate the email, and then track down Frank Koza for confirmation. Rhys Ifans plays Ed Vulliami who is on the American desk of the Observer, and Conleth Hill portrays the Observer’s executive editor Robart Alton.
In March 2003 the email is published in the Observer, and investigations into who leaked the memo begin at GCHQ. Katherine confesses to leaking the memo hoping to prevent the US and UK invasion of Iraq, and she is imprisoned overnight but released on remand. The Govt decide to charge her with violating the Official Secrets act, but Katherine enlists the aid of Liberty lawyers Ben Emmerson and Shami Chakrabati, (Ralph Fiennes and Indira Varma) who come up with a defence strategy that Katharine was acting out of loyalty to her country by seeking to prevent the UK from being led into an unlawful war in Iraq. On the day of the trial the case is dropped by the Crown Prosecuter on the grounds that prosecuting Katharine would have shown that the Tony Blair govt led the UK into war on false pretenses.
I have to admit that Ms. Knightly isn’t one of my favourite actors, but she raised her game for this one and was completely believable. This is recent-ish history and is a straightforward telling of real life events. The perfidious goings on of the Bush and Blair governments regarding the WOMD lies and obfuscations are thrown into stark relief. The director doesn’t add any frills, and uses real TV footage of Blair et al telling their lies on the news programmes when they are interviewed.
Fraggle Rating: Compelling viewing and brought to life by a committed cast.
On to my Saturday night movie. Well. I don’t know where to start with this one. At the beginning I guess. Polar (2019) billed as a neo noir action thriller, and I guess that suits. Directed by Jonas Åkerlund, it is based on a 2012 webcomic of the same name, which I’d never heard of. Still I hadn’t heard of the movie either, but I watched the trailer on Netflix and was in like Flynn. I’m a sucker for a retired hit-man who has to do one last hit movies.The retired hit-man this time round is the renowned Mads Mikkelson, which was a surprise, but my-oh-my he pulls it off.
Basic plot, though not doing spoilers this time, you need to go in without preconceptions really. Mikkelson plays Duncan Vizla, who is 2 weeks away from retirement from Damocles, an organisation of assassins whomst he works for. All their hit-men are retired at the age of 50 and then get a pension, which is worth $8 million to Vizla. The boss of Damocles Mr.Blut (Matt Lucas) uses his younger employees to kill the would be retiree’s in the company so he can keep the pension money.
The movie revolves around that premise. Blimey what a ride this was. It was such a mix of genres, with the Damocles lot looking and acting like you’d expect webcomic characters to be, but the Mikkelson story line is like a ‘proper’ thriller. The first half of the movie is more set-up story than action, then the second half flings itself at you and let me tell you, Mr.Mikkelson can out-Keanu, out-Liam and out-Denzil them all. The action is crazy but fun if you can cope with a fair amount of blood and viscera. The sex scene in it is quite gasp inducing too, he’s a bit of a lad is Mads. The only niggle for us was Matt Lucas. A British comedian ( though I have never found him funny) and comedy actor in awful TV programmes over here, including being a presenter of the godawful Great British Bake-Off, why anyone thought he’d be good in a movie is beyond me. 🙄 He didn’t seem to fit the part of an Assassin Company boss, but I suppose they couldn’t really use Ian McShane who would have been my choice. Vanessa Hudgens plays Camille, a neighbour Vizla befriends and helps out, and Katheryn Winnick plays Vivian, Blut’s right hand woman- (there’s a point, they should have cut Lucas’s part out and let her do the boss role) and she vamps it up beautifully. She looks remarkably like Scarlett Johanson (check out the side by sides on google 🙂 ) and we thought that the case until I looked up the cast!
Fraggle Rating: Bloody Fantastic.