Tag Archives: Indira Varma

Official Secrets (2019) Review

Time: 112 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Offensive language
Cast:
Keira Knightley as Katharine Gun
Matt Smith as Martin Bright
Matthew Goode as Peter Beaumont
Rhys Ifans as Ed Vulliamy
Adam Bakri as Yasar Gun
Indira Varma as Shami Chakrabarti
Ralph Fiennes as Ben Emmerson
Director: Gavin Hood

One day in 2003, in the lead up to the Iraq War, British intelligence specialist Katharine Gun (Keira Knightley) receives a memo from the NSA with a shocking directive: the United States is enlisting Britain’s help in collecting compromising information on U.N. Security Council members to blackmail them into voting in favor of an invasion of Iraq. Unable to stand by and watch the world be rushed into war, Gun makes the gut-wrenching decision to defy her government and leak the memo to the press.

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Although there wasn’t a lot of widespread attention given towards Official Secrets, I had been hearing a small amount of positive buzz for it. The premise certainly sounded intriguing, as was the cast assembled for it, so I was interested in checking it out for sure. Having finally seen it, I can confirm that Official Secrets is really good, a tightly directed political thriller, and I don’t know why it’s not receiving much more attention. Worth watching for sure.

Admittedly, Official Secrets starts off a little slow to begin with. It even takes a while for the information to leak and then be published in the story. From that point onwards however, the movie really picked up from being pretty good, to really good. It shows the perspectives of Katharine Gun, who leaked the information, as well as the journalists who break the news. As someone who never knew about this story, it was very interesting and most of all informative watching all of it unfold on screen. It is maddening watching this at times as you see what happened, as it should be given that this really happened in real life, and the story is told as honestly as possible. It’s quite easy for big budget political thrillers about real life stories like this to make up things about what happened just for dramatic purposes. However from what I can tell, it stays as true to the real life story as it possibly can. In the second half it becomes really tense, but it never overplays it, it feels very grounded in reality. Now it is definitely more informative than entertaining, while it’s not one of the most gruelling watches or anything, it’s not exactly fun to watch. But as that type of political thriller, it really succeeds well.

The talented cast all do a great job and are among the highlights of Official Secrets. The main lead is that of Keira Knightley, who gives one of her best performances of her career as Katharine Gun, she’s very believable in her role. However it’s not just her who works, the movie also has Matt Smith and Matthew Goode as journalists, Ralph Fiennes as Katharine’s new lawyer, Adam Bakri as Katharine’s husband, and others like Rhys Ifans and Conleth Hall. All of them play their roles believably, and they really added to the movie.

Gavin Hood directs this very well, it’s a great looking movie and it’s been put together solidly. As I previously said, the scenes of tension are quite effective, without being too overbearing and overblown. It’s all directed at the right level required for the story really, keeping your interest and attention without trying to make it flashy or pretty for the audience.

Official Secrets is one of the most overlooked movies of the year, and it really should be seen by more people. It’s directed and written well, the cast are great, particularly Keira Knightley, and it’s an important story that needs to be known and seen. Watch it for the performances at the very least. Definitely don’t miss it, and see it as soon as you can.

 

Una (2017) Review

Time: 94 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Sex scenes, offensive language & content that may disturb
Cast:
Rooney Mara as Una Spencer
Ben Mendelsohn as Ray Brooks
Ruby Stokes as Young Una Spencer
Indira Varma as Sonia
Tara Fitzgerald as Andrea
Tobias Menzies as Mark
Riz Ahmed as Scott
Natasha Little as Yvonne
Director: Benedict Andrews

With deeply unresolved questions about her past, Una (Rooney Mara) travels to another city, turning up unannounced at Ray’s (Ben Mendelsohn) work and dredging up a decade-old experience that he thought he’d left behind.

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Una was one of my most anticipated movies of 2016 (however it only really came out for the general audience in 2017). It was mainly the talent involved that had be interested, with Rooney Mara and Ben Mendelsohn, with that level of talent I was interested in seeing their performances (and I’m pretty much willing to watch anything that Rooney Mara is in). Having finally seen Una, I can say that the film is pretty decent on its own, with its direction and writing. But it’s the performances that really makes this movie worth watching.

This film feels like a play, which is fitting since it was based off a play called Blackbird by David Harrower (who also adapted the play into the screenplay for Una). This movie’s pace is very steady and with that slow pace, the movie does lose my interest at points. The film really excels in the scenes between Rooney and Ben and every single one of them are riveting (I’ll get into them later). The scenes that aren’t between them are hit or miss, most of them are fine, but some of them just weren’t as interesting as a lot of the other scenes. You also really need to know that that this is a dialogue driven movie, there’s a lot of scenes where characters would just sit or stand and just talk for a long time. As for how it portrays the paedophile aspect, I personally think it was handled well, you don’t see any of the actions on screen (thankfully) but you hear Una and Ray mention what happened, and the film doesn’t shy away from this disturbing subject matter. It was balanced suitably. Aside from the pacing and some of the less interesting scenes, one other criticism I have is that the ending is a little jarring and sudden. I have a feeling that I know what they were going for but it nonetheless felt a little unsatisfying, perhaps that was what they were intending.

The highlights of Una as I stated before are the performances. First of all we have Rooney Mara delivering one of her best performances yet with Una, and considering the performances she’s given (especially The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Carol), that is saying a lot. Una is a complicavted person, when she tracks down Ray we don’t know her intentions, and that ambigiouty is shown so well by Mara. Every delivery of her lines, every expression and especially the way she conveys so many emotions through just a look, without even needing to say anything is simply excellent. It’s quite frankly a perfect performance. Just as good is Ben Mendelsohn who gives quite possibly his best performance yet. He doesn’t have an easy job, he’s playing a paedophile after all. The filmmakers and Mendelsohn present Ray as human as possible, which to be honest is the only way to really portray this character. Had this not been handled right it could’ve failed badly, but along with the way he’s presented, Ben Mendelsohn truly is incredible in this role, his performance was just as perfect as Rooney’s. The interactions between Rooney and Ben are the highlights of the movie, they shared excellent chemistry and worked off each other incredibly well. Ruby Stokes plays young Una in flashbacks and she is very good in her role, definitely deserves some praise as well. Riz Ahmed is in this movie and while he is good in his role, ultimately his role could be played by anyone.

This film is the directional debut of Benedict Andrews, he is a theatre director and you can really see that, not just in the way the dialogue is presented but the way the film is edited and directed. This film doesn’t have a flashy direction but that’s good, it doesn’t take away from the focus on the actors. Una is also shot very well, I don’t have any issues with the cinematography. The soundtrack, while not that spectacular does give a lot of the scenes an eerie vibe. In fact a lot of the scenes have an eerie, haunting vibe, from the music, to the camera shots, to the editing, and that helped to make many of the scenes tense, even when nothing is happening.

Una is pretty well written and directed well but really the best reason to see Una is for the performances. Both Rooney Mara and Ben Mendelsohn given some of their best performances to date and are absolutely phenomenal. If you can handle the lurid subject matter, I recommend giving Una a watch. I’m not quite sure if I would call it a great movie but it has a lot of great aspects to it, especially the excellent acting.