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Posts Tagged ‘Matt Smith’

Keira Knightley

“OFFICIAL SECRETS” My rating: B- 

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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Matt Smith as Charles Manson

“CHARLIE SAYS” My rating: B-

104 minutes | MPAA rating: R

The murderous Charles Manson family has been the subject of countless films, TV shows and documentaries. “Charlie Says” approaches the yarn from the point of view of one of his “girls.”

Written by Guinevere Turner and directed by Mary Harron (the same team who brought us “American Psycho” nearly 20 years ago), the film is less about Manson (portrayed here by “Dr. Who” veteran Matt Smith) than about Leslie “Lulu” Van Houten, a runaway teen who wandered into Charlie’s harem at the Spahn Ranch (a Western movie set just outside L.A.) and ended up a convicted killer on Death Row.

Lulu is portrayed by Hannah Murray, a Brit actress best known on these shores as Samwell Tarley’s wife Gilly on HBO’s “Game of Thrones.” Her role on GOT doesn’t begin to suggest the depth of her work here, in which her character evolves from moon-faced innocent to blood spattered loony who repeatedly stabbed one of the family’s victims.

In the “present” (about 1973) we find Lulu, Patricia “Katie” Krenwinkel (Sosie Bacon) and Susan”Sadie” Atkins (Marianne Rendon) occupying separate cells in a California prison.  The state has recently outlawed executions,  but the three women are considered too dangerous to join the rest of the prison population, and so can look forward to living their lives alone own Death Row, able to call to one another but only rarely actually seeing  their comrades’ faces.

Enter a grad student (Merritt Wever) who convinces the prison administration to allow her to hold classes for the three.  During these sessions — ostensibly about women’s studies and other topics — the inmates talk about their lives with Charles Manson.  These scenes unfold in flashbacks.

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