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Posts Tagged ‘State of Play’

Review: House of Cards, Season One (1990)

December 8th, 2009 Comments off
Richardson's Urquhart and Harker's Storin are at the heart of the storyline.

Richardson's Urquhart and Harker's Storin are at the heart of the storyline.

On Netflix recommendation by virtue of the degree to which I enjoyed State of Play (BBC miniseries version), I rented another BBC miniseries involving political intrigue and backroom scandal.  House of Cards was based on the Michael Dobbs book by the same name.  Set in the late 1980s at the end of the Thatcher era, the plot follows a majority, Conservative Party whip in his attempt to wrest political position and power.

Ian Richardson plays Francis Urquhart, the whip who keeps the “back bench” in order — in other words, he’s the guy that keeps the party regulars in the House of Commons in line for the party leadership.  The whip is an essential role in any parliamentary structure, including the House of Commons and the US Congress.

The portrayal of the whip’s traditionally unexercised power is convincing and believable.  Urquhart has dirt on just about every other character and beats them into line for the party leadership.  Where things start to skew toward dramatic intrigue is set off by Urquhart being turned down for a promotion to Home Secretary upon the election of a new PM who relied heavily on the whip’s support to get elected.  Urquhart launches a grand and well thought out scheme to destroy the PM and become the front runner to replace him.


Review: State of Play (2009)

November 25th, 2009 Comments off

On my flight down to Houston Friday night, I carried my Audiovox personal DVD player and my Netflixed copy of the US adaptation of the BBC miniseries “State of Play.” Through being kicked by some French four year old sitting, sleeping and being a general pain next to me, I did my best to appreciate and not simply identify the ways in which this film fell short of the miniseries.

Ultimately, it’s hard to not compare the two because this is hardly a reimagining. It’s a near true copy (with Americanized characterizations) of the UK roles, plot lines and mannerism. The main differences are really quite simple:

  • the black victim killed in the opening scene is an actual junkie, as opposed to a falsely accused innocent (hardly a spoiler there);
  • there is less depth to Dominic Foy’s character;
  • Della Frey and Cal McCaffery aren’t truly co-workers;
  • Hellen Mirren‘s editor has no hotshot reporting son as was played by James McAvoy in the BBC version; and
  • the corporation being investigated by Stephen Collins’ subcommittee, Pointcorp, is a thinly veiled version of Blackwater, whereas the BBC version condemned evil oil conglomerates, in general.

Oh, and another difference is that the miniseries is actually good.

There are some strong updates to the UK story. Most notably, the use of a Blackwater proxy proved topical and a more natural fit for misdirection and demonization. It was a solid update over the miniseries’ oil company.


Review: State of Play (2003)

October 29th, 2009 Comments off

Yesterday I finished up watching the BBC miniseries drama “State of Play”, a 2003 production featuring the following IMDB tagline: A thriller set in London, in which a politician’s life becomes increasingly complex as his research assistant is found dead on the London Underground and, in a seemingly unrelated incident, a teenage drug dealer is shot dead.

Featured in the miniseries are David Morrissey and John Simm as the male leads of MP Stephen Collins and Cal McCaffery (an investigative journalist who had served as Collins’ campaign manager and friend back in the day). Supporting are Kelly Macdonald and a very young James McAvoy as journalists, Bill Nighy as their very British editor and Polly Walker as Collins’ wife.

This is one of those miniseries where discussing it too much will just give away plot twists and turns, so I’ll stay somewhat general and discuss the nature of the production.

Ultimately, it is a classic investigative journalist drama… harking back to the early 90s and late 80s themes I recall from my youth. But it’s rather sophisticated in its masking. You don’t really see the various twists and turns coming… as the storytelling is quite first (rather than third) person. You’re seeing what the investigation sees, without having those limitations be so overt as to annoy. You can tell the screenplay was an adaptation of what must have been an engrossing novel of political and journalistic intrigue. [OK, wordy praise now out of the way]

The cast does a knockout job with their performances. Simms and Morrissey are each excellent and McEvoy and Nighy play off each other very well. Also outstanding is Marc Warren in a supporting role. MacDonald is very engaging as what constitutes the female lead and I’m somewhat surprised she hasn’t made a bigger impact on this side of the pond.