Saturday, 20 March 2010

State of Play: review


When the film of State of Play came out, I heard about the television serial on which it was based, which I missed completely when it was screened seven years ago. But I liked the sound of it, so I bought the DVD version, and I’ve just finished watching it – something that proved to be a very enjoyable experience.

The story gets off to a dramatic start. A ruthless gunman shoots a young black man, and also fires at a passing driver who witnessed the crime. A woman dies in an accident on the Tube – but did she jump or was she pushed? She turns out to have been an assistant to a prominent back-bench MP – and they had been involved in a torrid affair. The truth about their relationship quickly comes out, and a friend and former campaign manager of the MP, who is also a top investigative journalist, starts to look into the mystery. To complicate matters further, the newshound begins an affair with the MP’s unhappy wife.

There are six episodes in all, and while the series begins quite brilliantly, I felt that episodes four and five could easily have been reduced to a single episode, since the pace flags. However, the final instalment is very good, and there is a pleasing twist to the conspiracy-thriller type of plot.

State of Play was written by Paul Abbott, one of our most successful TV writers, and he gave a fascinating account of the newspaper and political worlds. His excellent screenplay was enhanced by terrific acting. John Simm, whom I really admire as an actor, was as good as ever as the journalist, while David Morrissey was appropriately selfish as the MP. Bill Nighy’s quirky performance as the newspaper editor was marvellously conceived, and there were excellent contributions from the rest of the cast, which included Philip Glenister and the under-rated Amelia Bullmore. Recommended.

9 comments:

Minnie said...

Excellent review. Very superior telly. Agree could have benefited from some condensing in the middle. And the cast was as close to flawless as poss. Only problem for me was the Bill Nighy character: far too 'old Fleet Street' to be true - these days, he'd be horribly corporatist, spouting managementspeak and very concerned with advertising revenue ... more jesting Pilate than journo.

Mrs. B. said...

I enjoyed this TV mini-series too! I saw the American version lately with Russell Crowe on the plane and it was not a good remake. The British one was much better!

Jose Ignacio Escribano said...

Martin thanks for bringing our attention to "State of Play". I've enjoyed the film but I heard that the tv serial was far much better.

Margot Kinberg said...

Martin - Thanks for this fine review. I'm glad you enjoyed the movie. Like Mrs. B., I saw the Russell Crowe version of the movie and wasn't impressed. The mini-series sounds much better, so maybe I'll give it a try.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I have been meaning to rent this. Thanks for the reminder.

Martin Edwards said...

Many thanks for these comments.
Minnie, I'm sure you're right about journalism, but I did think Bill Nighy's performance added a lot of humour to a dark story and was very welcome.

Nan said...

We thought this series was tremendous. The cast was so very good. Liked the movie, too, but the tv version better. I always smile when Bill N. comes on the screen.

Fetherwate said...

I enjoyed this hugely when it was first aired (for all the reasons you give)and remember it being hailed as a return to the unfashionable tradition of Francis Durbridge or Edge of Darkness: a self-contained, relatively short thriller series keeping us glued to the set over several weeks rather than over consecutive nights. We were promised another such, but, alas, Paul Abbott was lured away to other (no less good) work.
Re Bill Nighy: I think his character was intended to be something of an anachronism, an old-style editor alternately goading and protecting his hungry young journos. He perhaps seems less plausible today than in 2003, because it's only in the last 4 or 5 years that newspapers have begun to change out of all recognition.

Martin Edwards said...

Nan and Fetherwate, thanks. Edge of Drakness certainly was another good series.