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Government Inspector, The (2005)

Main image of Government Inspector, The (2005)
Mentorn / Stonehenge Films for Channel 4, tx. 17/3/2005
125 minutes, colour
DirectorPeter Kosminsky
ProducerJonathan Curling
Written byPeter Kosminsky
PhotographyDavid Higgs
MusicJocelyn Pook

Cast: Mark Rylance (Dr David Kelly); Jonathan Cake (Alastair Campbell); Emma Fielding (Susan Watts); Daniel Ryan (Andrew Gilligan); James Larkin (Tony Blair); Julian Wadham (Jonathan Powell)

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How United Nations weapons inspector Dr David Kelly was caught up in the crossfire between the Government and the BBC over the intelligence justification for the war in Iraq, and endured a media storm that contributed to his suicide.

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The Government Inspector was commissioned in August 2003, while the Hutton Inquiry was underway, and broadcast 14 months after the Inquiry's report was published. Like Hutton, it investigates the death of Dr David Kelly and related issues, including the BBC's questioning of a dossier supporting the Government's case for war in Iraq. Writer-director Peter Kosminsky uses drama documentary methods to "understand complicated political and personal events that had a huge impact on our nation".

Commissioned by Channel Four's head of documentaries, its documentary elements include the research conducted by a team which over 18 months studied Hutton, conducted interviews and gathered new evidence. Documentary research informs the drama's insight into events and Kelly's personality. Kosminsky's dramatic structure alternates between 2003 and 1990s Iraq (filmed in Morocco) because, according to co-producer Simon Chinn, "the key to understanding Kelly is in his years as a weapons inspector in Iraq".

Although Kosminsky reaffirms Kelly's status as the world's leading biological disarmament expert, Mark Rylance's acclaimed portrayal evokes his dignified but troubled demeanour, particularly in the ending, which agrees with Hutton's account of Kelly's death. Kelly's personal tragedy is placed in political and media contexts, from Alastair Campbell's strategy against the BBC to Andrew Gilligan's disputed account of his Kelly interview. Kosminsky was once again forced to defend drama documentary technique when critics questioned the specifics of scenes.

One flashpoint was a scene showing Tony Blair playing guitar during a crucial telephone discussion with Alastair Campbell. While Kosminsky's intention was to show Blair's strategy to fend off unwelcome advice from Campbell, the scene was widely misread as a comment on Blair's lack of engagement. The Blair guitar row almost obscured what was arguably a far more significant charge - based on forensic analysis of Gilligan's personal organiser - that the journalist had indeed, despite his persistent denials, altered his notes of his interview with Kelly. In 2003, Kosminsky stressed the need to be "pedantically factual" because "truth and trust are the central tenets of the story". His concern for journalistic ethics is strongly felt when Susan Watts faces pressure from BBC news management to reveal her own source to protect Gilligan.

Building on Kosminsky's The Project (BBC, 2002) in its mixture of party politics and personal betrayal, and foreshadowing his later Britz (Channel 4, 2007) in its statements on the Iraq war making London a terrorist target, The Government Inspector is one of Kosminsky's highest-profile productions.

Dave Rolinson

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Video Clips
1. Finding the weapons (2:48)
2. From our source (3:48)
3. Untrue (2:53)
4. A clear win (2:49)
Project, The (2002)
Kosminsky, Peter (1956-)
Drama Documentary