State of Play (2003)

State of Play (2003)Synopsis: “State of Play” is a roller-coaster thriller of deception and collusion in the corridors of power. Written by Paul Abbott (“Shameless”) and directed by David Yates (“Harry Potter”), the miniseries stars Bill Nighy (“Love Actually”), John Simm (“Life on Mars”), David Morrissey (“South Riding”), James McAvoy (“X-Men: First Class”) and Kelly Macdonald (“Boardwalk Empire”).

A dynamic combination of murder, suspicion, deceit and intrigue, “State of Play” examines the tumultuous world of respected journalist Cal McCaffrey (Simm) and his sarcastic newspaper editor Cameron Foster (Nighy) as they attempt to unearth the connection that two unrelated murders have with a prominent, yet deceptive politician (Morrissey).

Revelation upon revelation pile up in the aftermath of these two seemingly unconnected events, ultimately bringing to light shady dealings between the government and major corporate powers. Friendship are tested and lives are put on the line as an intricate web of lies unfolds.

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State of Play (2003) 8.0

eyelights: the intrigue.
eyesores: the out of place electro soundtrack.

‘State of Play’ is an original mini-series written for and produced for BBC in 2003. Written by Paul Abbott and directed by David Yates (of ‘Harry Potter’ fame), the intrigue centres on the separate deaths of a teenaged boy and a political assistant – having both taken place on the same day, and which may somehow be connected.

Its key players are a team of journalists, led by Cal (John Simm), as they discover that there is more to the crimes than a mere suicide and drugland killing. Soon they realize that this ties into an up-and-coming MP in the current government. But how is he involved, if at all, and which powerful forces are manipulating this?

Frankly, I was thoroughly entertained by ‘State of Play’. Although it delved into some melodrama, which at one point leads the paper’s editor (played with his typical bite by Bill Nighy) to ask if anyone on his team had not yet slept with a source, the intrigue is potent enough that it makes you want to watch another episode right away.

The cast is relatively nondescript, with none of them standing out in any significant way aside for the afore-mentioned Nighy, and to some degree Polly Walker and Kelly Macdonald. Interestingly, the two most central players, Simm and David Morrissey merely come off as bland versions of Simon Pegg and Liam Neeson, respectively.

The pace is quite good, and the filmmakers knew how to keep things flowing without keeping it dialed up the whole way through. There were plenty of slower moments, various calms before the storms, so to speak, but they always tied into the greater picture, which was excellent. There were no moments of boredom or over-excitement.

But there were plenty of surprises and jaw-dropping twists.

Is the story credible? Well, it’s not entirely convoluted, thankfully, but it does make you wonder about the shadowy forces at play in politics while you’re watching it. It’s already quite clear that you can’t take any event or news at face value, but when you start considering all that we don’t know, it’s a wonder if we know anything at all.

It also makes you wonder about the value of human life and the fragility of the status quo. Power and politics are a completely different level of existence and the impression shows like this one give is that the rest of us are either pawns or collateral damage; it’s kind of depressing, if not worrying, to consider how fragile we are.

But those are just afterthoughts: ‘State of Play’ was exciting to watch. I especially liked watching the journalists work as a team, and eventually with some of the police inspectors, to get to the truth, as they start realizing that all questions are being muted. Nighy especially shines when the editor is put under extreme pressure.

To reveal any more about the mini-series would spoil its many surprises so I will leave it at this: ‘State of Play’ is a superb mixture of political intrigue, crime thriller and, yes, romantic drama. While it’s predictable in some areas, it’s exciting enough to keep the viewer on the edge of his/her seat for the entirety of its run.

It’s no wonder that it was considered remarkable enough to be remade by Hollywood in 2009; although I suspect that its two-hour runtime may not be enough to capture all the nuances of the original, it’s exactly the kind of fodder that should have made of it a box office winner. Which it wasn’t. Just don’t fault the original for that.

You’d be missing out.

Dates of viewings: July 13-19, 2015

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