January 22nd, 2008


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.