March 3, 2008

State of Play


Reviewer: Dylan de Thomas
Rating (out of 5): ****

Much like the terrific Traffik before it (later turned into Steven Soderbergh's Oscar-winning Traffic), State of Play is the latest miniseries from the UK that will shortly be made into a feature stateside (starring Russell Crowe and Ben Affleck). The miniseries casts a jaundiced eye at politics and journalism, two professions at least as disgraced as the drug trade.

The plot is set up with a lean but mesmerizing ferocity: a young black teenager is chased and shot in cold blood while the researcher - and illicit lover, we find out shortly - of a rising-star Member of Parliament (played by David Morrissey) is found under a train. What follows takes the shape of a newspaper's investigation into the two deaths and all the muckraking that entails. The series rewards close viewing as minor characters amble in and shortly become the focus for the run of show.

Written by veteran British television scribe Paul Abbott (Cracker) and directed by David Yates, best known in these parts as the fellow who's directing the final three Harry Potter films, State of Play is packed with a cast at least as good - and almost as well-known - as the upcoming U.S. adaptation. With Pirates of the Caribbean's (among many other fine roles) Bill Nighy as the paper's editor-in-chief, James McAvoy, recently of Atonement, as a ne'er do well freelance journalist, Restoration and “Rome's Polly Walker as the MP's estranged wife, and Kelly MacDonald (Trainspotting, Gosford Park) and John Simm (The Lakes, another great BBC series) as scribes at the paper leading the investigation.

As I've written before, I'm particularly fond of the BBC's short-form series, whether it's the great “Prime Suspect” series or the magnificent UK version of The Office, they seem to know how long to stay without seeming like the house guest that won't leave (I'm looking at you, ER; but it goes for almost every U.S. TV series lasting more than two or three years). Leave me wanting, I say. And State of Play takes just enough time to draw you in, tell its tale and leave you wishing for a sequel, never to come. It's delicious.

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Posted by cphillips at March 3, 2008 11:49 AM
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