Posts Tagged ‘Gavin Hood’

Keira Knightley


111 minutes | MPAA rating: R

There are moments when “Official Secrets” doesn’t seem to know just whose story it is telling; others when the dialogue sounds more like speechifying than regular conversation.

Still, there’s something so vital about the material it covers — the British government’s complicity in the Bush White House’s half-assed plan to invade Iraq — that Gavin Hood’s fact-based docudrama demands to be seen.

In 2003 Katharine Gun, an analyst with Her Majesty’s spy service, received an unexpected email.  In this message — also received by all of her co-workers — the American CIA urged everyone to be on the lookout for dirt that could be used to force recalcitrant members of the United Nations Security Council into voting for a US/British invasion of Iraq.

Gun was both surprised that she received the email — her regular gig was translating intercepted Chinese telephone communications — and appalled that the Yanks and her own people were so nonchalantly encouraging the entire apparatus of British intelligence to participate in a blackmail scheme for the purpose of rushing into an unjust war.

So she surreptitiously copied the email and gave it to an anti-war activist friend, who passed it on to a newspaper reporter, who with his colleagues spent months verifying the truth of the communication.

Eventually the story was published, but not without some unexpected blowback.  Before it hit the printed page, an unsuspecting editor ran the copy through Spell Check, which changed all the American spellings in the CIA email to British, thus leading to accusations that this was a British-generated fake document.

Spell Check strikes again.

As scripted by Hood, Gregory Bernstein and Sara Bernstein (from Marcia Mitchell and Thomas  Mitchell’s book The Spy Who Tried to Stop a War), “Official Secrets” is essentially a procedural docudrama populated by an A-list British cast.


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eyesky“EYE IN THE SKY”  My rating: B

102  minutes | MPAA rating: R


In the wars of the 21st century drones and robots do all the dirty work, directed by mouse jockeys on the other side of the world who risk little more than a case of carpal tunnel syndrome.

But even if you’re one of those remote-control button pushers, it’s still war. It’s still killing. There are still ethical consequences.

Gavin Hood’s “Eye in the Sky” offers a fingernail-gnawing look at this new kind of warfare. Scripted by Guy Hibbert, it’s a taut well-acted thriller that raises all sorts of moral questions — Hitchcock with a conscience.

Aaron Paul

Aaron Paul

At various points around the globe, high-tech warriors gather to capture a husband-and-wife team of Islamic terrorists (she’s a British citizen, he’s an American) operating in East Africa.

The actual takedown will be executed on the ground by Kenyan security forces. The operation will be observed from 22,000 feet by an armed American drone, the mission’s “eye in the sky” operated by an Air Force pilot [Air Force Lt. Steve Watts] (Aaron Paul) from the desert outside Las Vegas.

In charge of the overall mission is a calculating British Army colonel [Col. Katherine Powell] (Helen Mirren), who from her bunker in the English countryside has been directing a manhunt lasting more than six years. She can almost taste the long-awaited victory.

In a comfortable London office a British general (Alan Rickman in one of his last roles) sits with a group of civilian government officials watching it all unfold on closed-circuit television. They’re standing by to give their legal opinions and, ultimately, permission for the mission to continue.

But from the beginning the operation hits snags. The targets relocate to a village in terrorist-controlled territory where ground forces are denied entry.

A sole undercover agent (“Captain Phillips’” Barkhad [Barked] Abdi) gets close enough to set loose a tiny surveillance drone that looks like a large flying insect (apparently our arsenal holds all sorts of marvelous toys); from its fly-on-the-wall vantage point inside the house this tiny spy reveals that the residents are suiting up for a suicide bomb attack.


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