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State of Play? More Like Plate of Flay! - The Book of the Celestial Cow

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January 22nd, 2008


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11:54 pm - State of Play? More Like Plate of Flay!
Since watching Life on Mars, I had been mildly interested in seeing State of Play, a 2003 British political thriller John Simm had been in. This interest was heightened when I heard they were remaking it (originally with Brad Pitt and Edward Norton, and now with Russell Crowe and Ben Affleck, among others); sabra_n kept my awareness up. And then duchessdogberry had to go and pimp it so awesomely that I kind of just want to copy and paste her entire post for mine, but instead I'll just use the beginning, which is all I really read to avoid any more spoilers:
It was an average day. Deaths happen all the time.

Kalvin Stagg, a young kid with sticky fingers was killed in the West End. Shot in the head. He's black, so everyone assumes it was a drug-related hit.

Sonia Baker, a researcher for a MP no one had ever really heard of, died on the train tracks that morning. Probably jumped.

Nothing out of the ordinary, right?

But why is that MP Sonia Baker worked for so broken up about her death?

Why is the only drug in Kalvin Stagg's body at death an asthma steroid?

What's with the girl with the silver briefcase?

The staff of The Herald has the scoop that none of the other papers have. And go the distance to not only tell the story, but to get the whole story hiding beneath everything. And, in the course of that, get themselves into trouble.

Everyone is connected. Everything is connected. No one shows all their cards. No one knows everything. And Everyone is trying to figure out just what it all is leading to.

It's All the President's Men for the 2000s. Really. It pretty much is. Just... completely fictional. And British. And 6 hours long. And better.
If the plot doesn't hook you, perhaps the cast will, as this fucker features John Simm (Life on Mars), David Morrissey (I had no idea who he was, but you might), Kelly Macdonald (No Country for Old Men and the Alias episode "Ice"), Polly Walker (Rome), Philip Glenister (Life on Mars), James McAvoy (The Last King of Scotland, Atonement), Marc Warren (the Doctor Who episode "Love and Monsters," Hogfather), and Bill Nighy (everything ever). All directed by David Yates of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix fame.

What's awesome about State of Play is that it's really unlike the sort of mystery/crime/political thriller shows/movies I'm used to. All the characters are multidimensional (which is equal parts writing and acting, but I think a lot of credit goes to the actors for the somewhat smaller roles like Helen and Pete), and no one feels like a caricature. Even though you don't see a lot of their personal lives (with a couple important exceptions, of course), you care about them as characters. But most importantly, it's the whole method of storytelling, the way it really leads you through the intricate, complicated process of digging up evidence, interviewing witnesses, corroborating stories, and everything else. The different levels of validity required to print a story. Seizing onto the smallest of clues and magnifying their importance because it's all you have. The push-pull dynamic between the media and the police, each one trying to get information from the other but not wanting to give too much. The whole strategy of keeping information from people in order to suss out just how much they know. Also, LOTS AND LOTS OF TAPE RECORDING.

Paul Abbott and David Yates took the nitty-gritty of investigative journalism, brought it to the forefront, and then made it incredibly compelling and tense and interesting. And nothing even blows up! Ever! For real! This bitch is so fast-paced, it barely has time for credits. Every episode hits the ground running, displaying the main cast over the teaser before devoting about two seconds to the title card.

And what of the cast? Some silly observations follow! Kelly Macdonald's thick Scottish accent is adorable, much like the rest of her ("spunky, but not too spunky," says duchessdogberry). Polly Walker, like Kelly Macdonald and Amelia Bullmore, is attractive in that British way: not superhot but certainly pleasant to look at. Now I know who that James McAvoy chap the girls all fawn over is. Bill Nighy is made of complete awesome, as he makes dry imperiousness totally hilarious (while the show is very serious, there's also a healthy dose of humor thrown in).

The plot of this thing is labyrinthine and somewhat hard to follow; I'm still not sure I understand it all. You have to pay attention to everything, and even though they do their best to recap what they know every now and then, it can still make your head spin.

But if you're in the mood for an intelligent, entertaining, extremely competent political thriller, you could do worse than taking six hours to experience State of Play.
Current Mood: numbnumb
Current Music: Pedro the Lion - Bad Things to Such Good People

(39 memoirs | Describe me as "inscrutable")

Comments:


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From:spectralbovine
Date:January 23rd, 2008 08:23 am (UTC)
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Someone hasn't read Watership Down.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:January 23rd, 2008 04:24 pm (UTC)
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Oh, right, Trainspotting. I saw that years ago and didn't understand what anyone was saying.
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From:sophiap
Date:January 23rd, 2008 11:50 am (UTC)
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Ooh. This sounds faboo. Thanks for the recommendation.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:January 23rd, 2008 04:27 pm (UTC)
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Netflix should have it in a month or two. DVDs come out February 26.

Philip Glenister is pretty great in this, too.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:January 23rd, 2008 04:42 pm (UTC)
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They're going to have to compress everything, which...will remove what makes it unique to begin with. I'm still interested in seeing it, but they're either going to have to move at fucking light speed or just take a few big plot points and rearrange the clues to create a similar feel to the mystery-solving.
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From:miniglik
Date:January 23rd, 2008 02:04 pm (UTC)
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Dude. That sounds really good.

Anyway to buy it in the U.S.?
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From:spectralbovine
Date:January 23rd, 2008 04:27 pm (UTC)
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Pre-order!

I made you like something again! Hee.
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From:dachelle
Date:January 23rd, 2008 03:42 pm (UTC)
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David Morrissey was in Blackpool with David Tennant, which is a very strange and yet also awesome show that you should check out. It aired on BBCA as Viva Blackpool and I think is available on DVD here now.

And, yeah, State of Play rocks, as I am sure I posted when I watched it a couple of years ago. And yet you and eirefaerie are JUST NOW WATCHING IT. No one ever listens to me. Le sigh.
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From:eirefaerie
Date:January 23rd, 2008 03:45 pm (UTC)
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WHATEVER I FULLY WATCHED IT AT LEAST 5 MONTHS BEFORE SUNIL. I WANT THAT ON RECORD.
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From:eirefaerie
Date:January 23rd, 2008 03:44 pm (UTC)
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oh, you've FINALLY watched it. Good! It's fucking fabulous - one of the best thrillers I've seen in . . . ever. A lot of that is owing to its mini-series timeframe; there's no time for filler crap. Just plot plot plot, twist and turn. Universally relevent storyline (one of the few English-to-American adaptations that I feel will, if not be as good, at least be relatable to the American public. UNLIKE SPACED.), awesome acting and tons of "wait . . . what?" I love the web that's woven between the characters, their actions, what they know abd what they don't.

Actually, in some ways it reminds me of "A Trip To The Dentist" when it turns out that no one person is behind everything - it's a culmination of petty behavior and mistakes and ill-intent adding up to something terrible.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:January 23rd, 2008 04:35 pm (UTC)
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A lot of that is owing to its mini-series timeframe; there's no time for filler crap.
Yeah, everything has to count.

one of the few English-to-American adaptations that I feel will, if not be as good, at least be relatable to the American public.
Yeah, I don't know how they're going to fit it into two hours, but the basic story will work just fine. We do like our political thrillers.

I love the web that's woven between the characters, their actions, what they know abd what they don't.
And it's so goddamn confusing! Like, half the time, I couldn't figure out who was kept in the dark why, and then who was lying when, and how this character even knew about this, etc.

Actually, in some ways it reminds me of "A Trip To The Dentist" when it turns out that no one person is behind everything - it's a culmination of petty behavior and mistakes and ill-intent adding up to something terrible.
Yeah, when you finally find out the real and true reason Sonia died, it's like...shit. Seriously? And for that matter, Kalvin Stagg (and random motorcyclist) too? I'm still not sure I liked or understood the final resolution, but it sure was a mess.
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From:sabra_n
Date:January 23rd, 2008 03:55 pm (UTC)
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Yay! Like the poster above, allow me to recommend Blackpool for all your David Morrissey needs. He's just as intensely slappable there as he is in State of Play, except there's also SINGING. And DANCING.

And nothing even blows up! Ever! For real!

As I understand it, this was Abbott's first big foray away from his usual domestic dramas (like Shameless, which also featured McAvoy, and the magnificent Clocking Off) and into thriller territory. So what he wrote is awesome and suspenseful and also filled with awesome characters and friendships and snarky collegiality and...erm. Yes. Scary without being about the blowing-up of shit. I really, really hope he writes the promised sequel one day, because Simm has said he'd happily star in it.

I'm so glad you enjoyed this.

-blue
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From:spectralbovine
Date:January 23rd, 2008 04:38 pm (UTC)
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So what he wrote is awesome and suspenseful and also filled with awesome characters and friendships and snarky collegiality and...erm. Yes.
I was really impressed with the way the characters were so compelling without much actual character development. Like...you just really liked them and rooted for them, automatically.

I'm so glad you enjoyed this.
Like I said, it was so different! I loved the way it magnified all the little things and highlighted their significance in leading them to bigger things. Watching them put together the unconnected puzzle pieces.
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From:incidentist
Date:January 23rd, 2008 06:07 pm (UTC)
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If you substitute "policework" for "journalism", everything you say here (except for the pace) applies to The Wire, which is currently blowing my mind. So I gotta see this.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:January 23rd, 2008 06:12 pm (UTC)
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Ooh. I will do The Wire eventually.
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From:punzerel
Date:January 23rd, 2008 08:11 pm (UTC)
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Sounds really interesting - actually it sounds like the kind of British mystery novels I like to read. So I will remember this and look for it when I have free time!

How long does it take you to come up with all your "More like..." titles?
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From:spectralbovine
Date:January 23rd, 2008 08:17 pm (UTC)
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Hee. Probably far too long, and some are much better than others, and I don't know who really notices.
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From:sterope
Date:January 24th, 2008 03:16 am (UTC)
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Kelly Macdonald is also in Gosford Park, which is one of the best movies ever.
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From:thetheatremouse
Date:January 24th, 2008 04:33 am (UTC)
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Well, methinks me must check it out. Thanks dude.
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From:honeybunnylilb
Date:January 25th, 2008 09:48 pm (UTC)
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It's an awesome mini-series. I saw it when it aired on BBC America and later rented it. It's brilliant and added to my love for Bill Nighy, David Morrissey and John Simm. Morrissey was the lead in Viva Blackpool, the British series on which Viva Laughlin was based. He was recently in the latest incarnation of Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility as Col. Brandon. He's a wonderful talent. If you're a fan, you should check out Cape Wrath or Meadowlands. I can't wait for the Life on Mars spin-off to air. Have you been watching the second season of Torchwood?
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From:spectralbovine
Date:January 25th, 2008 10:00 pm (UTC)
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No, I tried to watch Torchwood and quit after about five episodes.
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From:alannaofdoom
Date:January 26th, 2008 05:41 am (UTC)
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Oooh speaking of BBC miniseries, I just finished watching "The State Within," which was awesome, because it was like MI-5 set in the US.

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