Women of substance

Updated: 2019-11-22 07:44

By Elizabeth Kerr(HK Edition)

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Women of substance

Disney is everywhere. On Nov 12, Disney's streaming service launched in three territories, three more a week later, and will likely hit platforms in Asia in the near future. The ubiquitous House of Mouse is doing its best to remake entertainment in its own, wholesome image, and until it streams here, people in Hong Kong will have to make do with the likes of Frozen 2. The sequel to the multi-billion dollar property -there's a stage version, DVDs, books, toys, you name it - is one of the Disney's healthiest cash cows, so it makes sense that this follow-up to the 2013 mega-hit is unadventurous, despite flirting with true creativity. It's, shall we say, on brand.

It's three years after the events of Frozen and Queen Elsa (Idina Menzel in the original English) of Arendelle is still working on who she is and how to use her powers. Her younger sister Anna (Kristen Bell) is still the gadabout, and she's still hanging out with Kristoff. When some kind of storm in the nearby enchanted forest seems to call to Elsa, the gang heads off to protect her from herself and her obsessive quest that could be leading to potentially dark places. But this is Disney and in no alternate universe is Elsa going dark. Frozen 2 never considers straying from the familiar, safe path, but for parents weary of "Let It Go" the film is a bright, kinetic adventure with fresh songs to get tired of and an admittedly solid message for younger girls.

The familiarity and sturdy, old-fashioned construction on display in Official Secrets is a similarly comforting movie blanket, just one with more ethical debates and a timely clarion call for press freedom. The film is based on the true story of British intelligence and security agency GCHQ staffer Katharine Gun (Keira Knightley) who takes serious umbrage with an illegal joint UK/US operation spying on UN Security Council members in order to pressure them into voting for the 2003 war in Iraq. When she gets orders to flag anything juicy, she leaves herself open to charges of treason by leaking a single document proving the misdeed to a newspaper. Dogged journalist Martin Bright (Matt Smith) gets all Deep Throat before Katharine hires human rights lawyer Ben Emmerson (Ralph Fiennes) to defend her against the smear campaign - and criminal charges - the British government and Scotland Yard eventually hit her with.

Now, All the President's Men or Hidden Agenda this is not, but Official Secrets is still a solid, efficient political thriller about governmental and diplomatic overreach that deftly illustrates how populations lose faith in their leadership, and why the few with the courage of their convictions need to be protected and respected for sticking their necks out for the greater good. Knightley leads a robustly effective cast, with a giddy turn from Conleth Hill (Game of Thrones' Varys) as the editor caught between a great story and a lawsuit, and Rhys Ifans as a suitably scruffy firebrand of old-school reportage.

Neither film is original, but sometimes there's something to be said for comfort food.

(HK Edition 11/22/2019 page11)