State of Play (TV Mini-Series 2003) Poster


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henry-girling26 June 2003
The BBC haven't made a mini series as good since 'Edge of Darkness' in 1985. Although 'State of Play' doesn't quite match that seminal classic it is still superb. It is an oasis in a very large desert of quality programming from the once mighty BBC. Apart from the 2001 co-production 'Conspiracy' the BBC drama output is a poor shadow of what it used to be in the sixties and seventies.

The six episodes of 'State of Play' need close attention but once the plot gets going it is a roller coaster ride to the last few minutes of the last episode. The journalists, the politicians and the police prowl around each other as the conspiracy is unravelled. It is not just a driving narrative however, there are real people with real emotions caught up in the action. The six episodes allow several characters to become rounded and interesting. High praise indeed for Paul Abbott, the writer. It gripped from start to finish.

The acting is excellent. David Morrissey and John Simm as Stephen Collins and Cal McCaffrey play brilliantly off against each other as truths are eventually discovered. The last scene between them is corker. The journalists are the heroes but they are also flawed and troubled. All the actors playing the journos were great but I thought Kelly Macdonald as Della Smith was exceptional. Bill Nighy had some hilarious lines which he gave full justice to. Forget Hollywood star names, these are proper actors.

Apart from the human characters the other character that is well portrayed is London itself. London has many faces and the series brought several of those out. From nights by the Thames , to the bleak housing estates, to the pretty suburban streets, to the formality of Parliament, to the sounds and almost the smells of eight million people jostling together. All photographed atmospherically. As a Londoner it made me look at my city again.

I'll run out of superlatives soon, so I'll just say it is a great achievement by all the artists concerned. Apparently another series is being considered and hopefully that will be just as good.
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State of the nation, state of the art
paul2001sw-124 June 2003
What makes a good political thriller? Some things are obvious. Firstly, strong believable characters. Secondly, a fast-paced, complex, dazzling plot. But the plot must resolve into something comprehensible - there may appear to be one hundred mysteries, but beneath the smoke and mirrors, there must be one story. Anyone can write an infinite collection of coincidences and conspiracies - but a strong story makes simple sense in the end. Finally, a political drama needs to say something authentic about the current state of the world. If the final conclusion is that the Prime Minister has a prediliction for drinking the blood of teenage girls, then however plausible this is made to seem, an opportunity has been lost - if politics really is the subject matter, and not just the setting, then the personal drama must make some wider political point. Paul Abbott's 'State of Play' succeeds gloriously on all these points, and confirms his reputation as among the the sharpest writers in British television today.

Director David Yates also deserves credit, for keeping the mood tense but unmelodramatic throughout, while the cast show uniform excellence in bringing Abbott's characters to life. Abbott has commented that he knew he would have failed if any of his (largely journalistic) heroes could be sumarised as "mavericks" - a simple lesson ignored by ninety percent of writers today. Instead we have real, three-dimensional portrayals. What's especially impressive is how well the female characters are realised - neither passive decoration nor kick-ass post-feminists, but believable, not necessarily glamorous women - the contrast between the sexes has a low-key ring of truth. David Morrissey as the MP around whom the storm breaks is also excellent - when politicians are held in universally low stock, 'State of Play' avoids all the easiest shots. If one of the tragedy of politics is that many of its protagonists are first rate idiots, another is what it makes out of those who are not. Morrissey's Stephen Collins is never sympathetic, and yet comes across as the sort of man you might almost choose to try and run the country. Paul Abbott, meanwhile, is certainly the sort of man you'd choose to write a drama. In 'State of Play', he has produced the best British TV series since 'Holding On'.
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Top Notch!!
Charles_e_johnston4 March 2005
What a trip watching this masterpiece. It's a fast moving intelligent thriller that had me glued to the couch... more addictive than Crack! The acting is convincing, the plot is thick, the script is delicious and the characters are vivid.

It's not often a TV production comes along leaving you hungry for more, but the BBC have a knack for picking quality and producing some of the best programming in the world. This is the stuff that leaves American entertainment for dead. No gadgets, explosions or tough guys! Shame on them with all their money and their smarts, it's the BBC that delivers time and time again.

Hats off and if you haven't seen it yet don't put it off.
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Perhaps the best political suspense series I have seen.
egress6327 March 2009
It is not often that really good series based on politics, suspense and a bit of romance + comedy hit our idiot boxes. However, State of Play manages to do all this with such finesse that I was left spellbound. What starts of as a simple murder case becomes so huge that it really boggles the mind. And at all time, it does not seem one bit over-stretched or silly. Add to this three subplots and what you have is a series that is of immense viewing pleasure. All in a runtime of just 300 minutes.

If you want your TV series to be intelligent, do yourself a favour and watch this series. Now.
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Possibly the best TV drama ever made
keysersoze1315 December 2006
Paul Abbott is a genius. His writing here is taut and intelligent, just like anything else he has done. This BBC production is truly flawless. From the writing to direction to the acting, it is outstanding. This is exhilarating and challenging TV that, though politically-charged, crucially develops interesting characters that you can care about. The plot is complex, as the best political thrillers are, and delivers a TV drama that hopefully shuts up those who say that us Brits can't make TV like the Yanks. Yes, American TV is great but the marathon seasons and multiple writers are exhausting and create bloated, sometimes frustrating TV. Look at Lost, it is as easy to hate as it is to love and becomes dull frequently in the flabby, direction-less mid-season hell. Not here though. Six streamlined parts that never let up the pace and never loosen their grip on the audience. 'State of Play' keeps you hooked and leaves you begging for more, as with all great pieces of entertainment. You'll be sucked into this world and won't want to leave.

Credit must be equally divided between its makers, and the direction is every bit as thrilling as the writing, and ,accordingly, David Yates is moving on to bigger things with the Harry Potter franchise. The tremendous cast all deliver as you'd expect, with David Morrissey and John Simm excellent as the leads and a stunning supporting cast that includes Kelly MacDonald, Philip Glenister, Polly Walker, Patrick Brennan, Shauna MacDonald, Rebekah Staton, James McAvoy, Marc Warren and, of course, the ever-delightful Bill Nighy.

More joy is found in the pulsating soundtrack, tight editing and cinematography.

Overall, 'State of Play' is among the most thought-provoking and exhilarating thrillers you'll ever see and is quite possibly the best thing to have been on TV; British, American or otherwise.
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What A Good Thriller Ought To Be
timdalton0079 September 2009
It isn't often that something literally comes along and changes the standards of a viewer for an entire genre. By the time I got through the nearly six hour of State Of Play the first time around, that was exactly what had happened to me. Having watched it again in virtually one sitting I am once again surprised not only by how well the mini-series holds up during a second (or in my case third) viewing but just how high the quality of the mini-series really is.

To begin with, the series features one essential element for any good story: good and believable characters played by fine actors. The cast of the series is top notch and is led by John Simm as newspaper reporter Cal McCaffrey and David Morrissey as British politician Stephen Collins who both give two incredibly gripping yet believable performances. While this is true of the entire series this fact is especially true during the final minutes of the series when things effectively become a two-hand play between Simm and Morrissey and their respective characters. It's easy to imagine how these characters could have been played differently but here, in this series, these performances are (to use words I don't sue very often) absolutely perfect.

That's not to say that the rest of the cast is lacking by any means, far from it in fact. The supporting cast features fantastic performances that are just as gripping and believable as the performances of the mini-series two leads. The cast ranges Kelly Macdonald as reporter Della Smith, James McAvoy as reporter Dan Foster, Polly Walker as Coliins wife Anne, Stuart Goodwin as the mysterious Robert Bingham and the ever magnificent Bill Nighy as newspaper editor Cameron Foster. There is many more of course many others, but these are just a few of the fantastic performances to be found in State Of Play.

There are also the production values to consider as well. One of the best things about State Of Play is the fact that one could believe that this could whole sequence of events is really just a headline away at any moment. Much of the credit of that goes to the production design of Donald Woods and the costumes of Claire Anderson both of which anchor the series firmly in reality. Then there's the incredible fly-on-the-wall cinematography by Chris Seager which manages not only to compliment the reality of the production design and costumes but gives the entire mini-series a documentary feel as well, all of which is helped by the editing of Mark Day. There's also the sparingly used, but highly effective, score by composer Nicholas Hooper which does what a good score is supposed to do: give additional emotional depth to any scene it appears in. All together the result is some of the strongest production values you're ever likely to see in a TV mini-series.

The real success of the realistic feel of State Of Play lies not in how good the production values are but in the writing of scriptwriter Paul Abbott. Abbott has created a story that feels as though it could be ripped from tomorrow's headlines in a cautionary tale about the sometime fuzzy line between major corporations and those in government whoa re supposed to oversee them, in this case the corporation being a fictional but plausible British oil company and its lobbyists. The mini-series also takes a look at the modern news industry, how it gathers news, where it gets its information from and how pressure can be brought to bare if there's a story too damaging to those in high and powerful places. To do all this successfully and believably, Abbott forgoes many of the thriller clichés of rather tired action sequences and instead (and rightfully in my humble opinion anyway) focuses on the characters and their dialogue which leads to close six hours of fantastic dialogue and an incredible plot. If anything makes State Of Play worth seeing it is the plot which sets a new standard in just how many twists and turns one can fit in a seemingly easily clichéd plot. The result is a complex a mini-series that leaves a first-time viewer ever seeking answers and those who've seen it before looking and finding new clues with every viewing. In short: it's a first class script without any doubt.

So what is State Of Play? It is a fantastic thriller containing some truly fantastic yet believable performances, fine production values and a first-rate script that never sinks into clichés. Yet it also something that is increasingly rare today. By doing all of those things it succeeds in doing something truly spectacular: it changes and raises the standards for an entire genre with it. If you can say nothing else you can say that State Of Play is what a good thriller ought to be.
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Brits have always been best at drama
zarembazwoman4 December 2007
I take issue with some of the people commenting on "State of Play" who declare that they believe it to be "as good as American TV" or some other such nonsense. That's ridiculous! Perhaps it's a generational thing, but I have always thought that British productions, particularly drama, are light years ahead of American TV and the actors are in a whole different galaxy. The original "State of Play" is brilliant, suspenseful and a pleasure to watch. I cannot believe that there is going to be a "remake"! I love Helen Mirren and Russell Crowe, but there is absolutely no need for this series to be remade. Why can't they write something original for Mirren and Crowe? The Brits are the best. Period!
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Great ride, but something of a con trick
pfgpowell-120 April 2009
Warning: Spoilers
I read somewhere that Paul Abbott wrote the screenplay for State Of Play on the hoof. And unfortunately it shows - and, at the end of the day, it is to the detriment of the piece. Like the Grand Old Duke Of York, he marches us up to the top of the hill, and then marches us back down again, before once more we are marched halfway up and then — well, what? This series has been lauded to high heaven and impressed the money men in Tinseltown so much that it has now been turned into a movie. But am I the only one who feels just a little let down by the denouement? And am I the only one who feels, just a day later that the plot is so full of holes that something akin to a con trick? Let me give some example, and I trust you have already seen the piece or else my comments will be substantial spoilers. It is hinted throughout that there a huge conspiracy is afoot, and that it is so deep and so serious that the government would even resort to murder to avoid the truth coming out. In fact, this fact - a probably government conspiracy - is the whole raison d'etre of the thriller, from its title - State Of Play - on. So, for example, the hit-man is shot by police marksmen who turn up and whose actions take even the coppers on the case by surprise. The strong suggestion is that he must be silenced. Then there is the question of who and why the autopsy report on the alleged black drug dealer was altered to make it seem that he was indeed a druggie, which his family insist he wasn't. And on it goes. Just why was the government so keen, apparently, to protect Stephen Collins? We are never told, but we are given the impression that it is not so much protecting Collins but itself. At one point Collins is told that Andrew Wilson was not his enemy, the implication being that he had several rather important ones. There are several wild implausibilities as, for example, when the hit-man takes a shot with a laser-sighted sniper's rifle to eliminate a witness who happens to be in the stairwell several floors up or down in a hospital. Just how could the killer or killers - we don't yet know it is only one - know where he was? That, and several other crucial plot strands, are left to sort themselves out and are left worryingly loose by the end of the final episode. Finally, of course, there is the character of the hit-man himself: why are we supposed to accept his actions and given no back story, no fleshing out of his character and motivation? And would not the cops have established the link between him and Collins rather fast - looking at the records of jobs done by his firm, for example? Then there is Collins himself who surely would, under the circumstances have chosen to keep his head down knowing that if everything were revealed, he would be implicated in the two murders. And on it goes, more or less ruining what was at first blush a great and thrilling series. Thankfully, there is more to SOP than just the story. The ending might more of a whimper than one might wish for, but the journey there is a hell of a ride, with more twists and turns than a Cornish lane however implausible and downright contradictory they are shown to be later. And for that we should be grateful. If someone were to ask whether I recommend this as a good way of spending six hours of their life, I would say 'well, why not, but don't go expecting genius'. As for the portrayal of newspaper journalism, it was hit and miss to say the least. I have spent the past 35 years of my life working for newspapers, and the past 19 working for newspapers of the stature of The Herald. And I must say that they get a lot of small details right — the newsroom looks pretty authentic, as does the slight chaos and the mouthy newsdesk secretary. But they also, unfortunately, get quite a bit wrong. As the editor, Cameron Foster would most certainly take a hands-on interest in the story, but he would not do so exclusively, and has plenty of other things to do. Most likely a deputy or associate editor would be delegated to oversee the story. Nor, on a British newspaper (and I'm sure this is also true of the U.S.) would the editor deign to mix it with the troops. Inviting them all, except those essential to getting out that night's paper (which on a morning paper would be all of them) to drop everything and join him for a drink down the pub is — well — pure fantasy. The reporters were reasonably convincing, except that the Lobby correspondent would have spent 99 per cent of her time at the Commons and would merely have been consulted — she would not have taken such an active part. Dan Foster convinces more than Cal McCaffrey. Dan is just the right kind of amoral, young go-getter who doesn't give a stuff except getting what he wants. Cal is too much of a maverick to last more than a day on staff and would never have got so involved personally with Stephen Collins fate. But Della is spot on. So there you have it: an exhilarating ride and some extraordinary large holes in the plot which simply cannot be explained away. Other reviewers have, as usual, rather gone way over the top with their comments, claiming this is the best drama on TV ever, that it is utterly brilliant, top notch, extraordinary, masterpiece ... Not a bit of it, but take a look anyway.
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John Simms is absolutely brilliant in this
caitlin_online24 October 2003
Warning: Spoilers
Actually the whole cast is - Bill Nighy, David Morrissey, Kelly Macdonald. What a terrific ensemble piece. David Morrissey's performance was very reminiscent of his role in the equally good "Holding On' I thought.

John Simms as the prime investigative reporter was definitely the standout though - a cleverly scripted excellently directed piece that convincingly twisted and turned throughout the five episodes. Totally gripping and highly recommended.
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Fantastic series spoiled by lazy ending
firewalking17 August 2011
Just bought and watched this on DVD. Up until the last episode I was enthralled with the story.

The mixture of journalism, politics and police work made for an interesting mix, although the latter two took more of a back seat nearing the end, replaced with lover's quarrels and artificial exposition more similar to soap opera writing.

While the cinematography is fairly average, the casting and acting is superb.

If you want a suspenseful thriller this one should entertain you, just don't expect a satisfactory ending.

I'd give the show 8/10, but the horrible finale totally undermined the story's credibility with several loose ends, and I was left frustrated instead of with the great feeling I had during the first 5 episodes.
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Best TV material I've seen in years
ramora-116 March 2004
Warning: Spoilers
This is what I call top class stuff. I haven't had much interest in British mini series for the past years. I loved the Dennis Potter series and "The Crow Road" I thought was excellent(since than I've read almost all of Banks' books). When it comes to thrillers, "Taggart" was good for quite some time, but has been going rapidly down the drain. So I was pleasantly surprised when I accidentally watched the first episode of "State of Play" and was absolutely hooked. The story is tight and exciting and the cast is wonderful. Even the cop who gets killed in episode 1 is a great character. John Simm, David Morrisey, Bill Nighy: all excellent, and I think I almost fell in love with Kelly MacDonald. Bravo. For a long time the best TV material has been American(Six feet Under, The Sopranos). I hope I'll see more stuff like that in the future.
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Good start - bogged down in the middle - so so finish
goha16 April 2009
Warning: Spoilers
First two episodes were excellent. Pacey, dramatic, great interaction between journalism, politics and police investigation. What happened in episodes 3,4,5 ? The Police and their ongoing investigation were dropped from the show. The affair between the politician's wife and the journalist took up (seemingly) hours of time. You never learned anything about any of the characters inner life or emotional state. And the most ludicrous character Dominic Foy wasted everybody's time with a pathetic accent, overacting and irrational behaviour. This should have been an excellent 3 or 4 part series, not 6. Episode 6 was too talky and unrealistic. The only saving grace of the final part was the excellent comedy turn of Bill Nighy. Even then, none of the behaviour rang true of real life journalists, politicians or police.

And then there's the way it was shot. If you want to know why the latest Harry Potter movies are not very good, look at the uninventive directing of David Yates in State of Play. No idea how to frame a widescreen frame. No idea how to edit for drama, action, tension or speech. The only idea for edginess seemed to be using a hand-held camera with resulting shaky-cam effect.


And in the end, the political games turned out to be weak, the oil company revelations were less than sinister, the politician's wife had no impact on the outcome and the big revelation was inconsistent with the two big plot turns at the beginning. 1. Who changed and classified the autopsy report ? 2. Why did the police recklessly shoot dead the assassin ?

Watch The Wire for comparison of a better TV series, better drama, more real characters, better writing, better directing, better editing.

Watch All the President's Men for filming in an open plan newspaper office. Watch Parallax View for journalism, company and political tension.

David Yates is no Alan J Pakula.
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Brilliant. Edge of Your Seat Stuff
philip-prise-114 August 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I missed this on original transmission (what was I doing in 2003?) but had heard so much about it from Life on Mars fans that I finally got round to buying it on DVD recently. Oh how wished I'd seen it before now.

Its tight, fast paced, beautifully directed and filmed. All of the primary and supporting cast are excellent but special credit must go to the ever outstanding John Simm plus Kelly MacDonald and David Morrisey. The thought of Brad Pitt playing John's role in the Hollywood remake makes me laugh and cry in equal measure and not in a healthy way!! What's particularly brilliant is all the characters are three dimensional and believable. As has been said no cocky maverick reporters, no kick-ass post feminist female reporter with a chip on her shoulder. Just a group of professionals who find themselves through Cal's personal connections on the biggest story of their lives. Credit for that lies in excellent writing from Paul Abbot.

The story starts and concludes on the apparent suicide of the personal assistant of the Chairman of The Energy Select Commitee, Stephen Collins (Morrisey), whom it transpires were having an affair.

By accident and due to an unrelated story his friend and leading Herald reporter Cal (Simm) discovers evidence that her death may not have been suicide. From there the story snowballs until the highest reaches of the Government are implicated in a series of griping twists each one leaving you slightly more stunned than the last.

Some people have said the concluding episode is a let-down but I must disagree. It actually makes a great deal of sense in the context of the story because the one thing they can't find in the whole story is that clue that leads to her murder. None of the key players in the conspiracy are able to shed light on it.

The revelation as to how she actually died is extremely well played. Its dropped in casually and its not until you realise what has disturbed Cal so much, that it dawns on you that casual drunken outburst is the biggest twist of them all.

Its this revelation that makes the ending so powerful because it isn't happy. Cal has published the greatest story of his life, but its the one he least expected or dared imagine could be true in his worst nightmare. State of Play is ultimately a story of betrayal.

State of Play would be worth watching just for the ever brilliant John Simm (Brad, you'll need to give the best performance of your life to be half as good), the fact its six of the best hours of television I've seen just sweetens the deal. Watch it, Buy it. SEE IT.
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The Final Episode Undermines this Taut Drama
gelman@attglobal.net20 January 2010
Except for the final episode, which I will not describe, this series is among the best TV thrillers I've ever seen. Regional accents make some of the dialog difficult to follow if you're not a Brit, but the story line is quite clear. Although most of the faces were unfamiliar to me, the cast is excellent from top to bottom, a hallmark of BBC productions. Each of the twists and turns prior to the final episode was imaginable (if in a couple of cases improbable). But the last twist makes little sense in light of what went before. I would have rated the series a 10 if it had ended with the fifth episode (and a small coda). The final episode subtracted three stars from my personal evaluation. Bill Nighy, James McEvoy, John Simm, David Morrisey and Polly Walker were particular impressive in their respective roles.
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States of Play - A Comparison.
isabelle19553 July 2009
Warning: Spoilers
This BBC TV mini series is so far ahead of the remake released as a theatre movie earlier this year, that it could almost be another piece entirely. OK, maybe that's an unfair comparison as the TV series had 6 hours and the movie had a little over two. But it's telling to make the comparison and take note of what the main differences are, and what they say about the current state of the film industry.

The TV series featured an ensemble cast of really good solid actors with a few real stand outs (Bill Nighy, David Morrissey, John Simm, Kelley Macdonald) playing a convincing crew of real characters. The movie is a vehicle for a Big Star (Russell Crowe) with most of the other parts being reduced to stereotypes. The TV series had some well rounded female characters with real lives and real motives and faults – just like the men. The movie has as its women a ball breaking newspaper boss (Helen Mirren), a high glam stick thin side kick for Crowe (Rachel McAdams) and a cardboard cut-out as the wife (Robin Wright Penn). So we have The Bitch, The Cutie and The Fallen Saint – pretty much the usual Hollywood take on women. (Although to be fair, I will add that many of the male characters are played as stereotypes too.) Of particular note is how utterly underwritten is the character of Anne Collins, wife of the straying politician, in the movie version. She is reduced to a very passive role, with very few lines. In the TV series, love her or hate her, this is a woman really enjoying getting her kit off and having a revenge affair.

Given that the action and intrigue had to be stuffed into a third of the time, what the movie sacrifices is, of course, the female characters. Unless they are cute. And that just about says it all. The TV series is excellent and rewards extended viewing, and requires a little more than our usual gnat like attention span.
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wendy-1077 March 2004
Not since The Lakes have the Brits delivered such impeccable, classy drama, (incidentally the fabulous and just a tad sexy John Simm was in that too! Coincidence? Nah, he's one of the best young English actors around who seems to choose his roles very well)

Where UK drama of late has tended to resemble cheap rip offs of American drama, this brings the Poms back to the very top of the tree. The script is superlative as is the acting. Tight, riveting, believable, gripping and at times just downright funny.

The gems that come from Bill Nighy's mouth! He is such a brilliant actor, proof that Love Actually wasn't a fluke for him, he's so on the money in the characterisation of the editor, a joy to watch.

Please, please more of this sort of stuff England, it's what you do best when it comes to television.
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The BBC at its best
freemantle_uk2 September 2009
The BBC dramatic standards have been slipping, either trying to hard to compete with HBO (The Last Enemy), letting shows jump the shark (Spooks) or simply being too cheap and just make shows like Strictly Come Dancing. But when the BBC get it right it can be some of the best television available. With State of Play we get a brilliant written, deep show, with a great director and an fantastic cast. A show so good that Hollywood remade it into a film stating Russell Crowe and Ben Affleck.

The mini-series starts with brutal murder of a 15-year-old petty criminal and the suspected suicide of Sonia Baker, a researcher for Simon Collins MP (David Morrissey), the chairman of the Energy Select Committee. At first the two events seem unrelated until newspaper reporter Cal McAffrey (John Simms) starts looking into it. Both men, with the backing of the Heard newspaper, including junior reporter Della Smith (Kelly MacDonald), editor Cameron Foster (Bill Nighy) and free-lancer Dan Foster (James McAvoy). Slowly all parties discover a conspiracy involving big oil, political corruption and sexual scandals. Simon Collins himself was having an affair with the dead researcher and his marriage falls apart. Cal ends up getting close with Simon's wife Anne (Polly Walker) and has to balance his friendship with the two. Cameron has to balance his editorial responsibles and Della and Dan set out to prove themselves as journalists.

I am a politics nut, so this series easily appealed to me. Often programmes and films about British politics is treated as a comical subject. This series treats it seriously, much like the West Wing does with American politics (if a bit more far-fetched). The show follows the traditional British view of being cynical about politicians and ideology. However the show is wrong about how Select Committee Chairpersons are picked. The film also shows the underhanded way oil lobbyists world (oil is such a easy villains for us Brits). The show also looks at many aspects of the press, from its relationship with the government and politicians, journalistic ethics and Chinese walls between a paper's editorial staff and the ownership. The film looks at journalists and politicians as individuals and wanting to serve the public. The series has a great complex plot, you don't know where its going next and shows how hard journalists have to work. Peter Abbott does a wonder job.

David Yates has proved himself to be a good director. The State of Play and his other mini-series Sex Traffic was prove enough for him to a land a small feature film, Harry Potter. He makes the series look very cinematic, like an excellent thriller feature. He keeps the tension going, get the best out of his actions and has some wonderful shot, especially tracking shots. He is a skilled man.

There is a great cast, David Morrissey and John Sims are both very good actors and were excellent in the leads. Both character are very faulted but you take an interest in what happens to them. There is a great support cast, with actors like Kelly MacDonald, James McAvoy, Bill Nighy and Marc Warren. Bill Nighy was perfectly smiley but a cares about his people. Kelly MacDonald is excellent as the young idealist. There was no weak link and all the major characters are fully developed. Even the bad guys have reasons for what they are doing, and not just for money.

The series is cheap on amazon and play and it is worth having. Highly recommended.
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Entertaining but a let-down at end
Philby-322 March 2004
Warning: Spoilers
I started out really enjoying the pace and excitement of this mini-series, shown in three 100 minute parts here in Australia. Stephen Collins (David Morrissey) seemed an intriguing politician and his ex-campaign manager turned broadsheet investigative reporter Cal McCaffrey (John Simm) was also interesting. There were a host of other lively characters including Bill Nighy as the editor from Heaven and Kelly McDonald as an intrepid cub reporter. Politics, big business, the press and the police are always capable of providing conflict and here there was plenty of argy-bargy.

Then why was I so disappointed at the end? Partly because a number of the hares set off by the action just vanished over the horizon. What looked like some interesting questions about big business interfering with the political process were not resolved. The resolution of the story came down to a personal confrontation which had been telegraphed for quite some time. The aftermath was merely hinted at. Several main characters were not even given exit lines. There are several implausibilities in the plot eg why did the police shoot the suspected killer? One doesn't look for more than a veneer of authenticity in a show like this, but it was odd that despite all the fireworks no other paper got on to the story, or even part of it.

Still, on the way there were some memorable scenes, such as John Simm and Bill Nighy trying to convince a suspicious and slightly baffled Geraldine James to spend some more money on their big story, and the antics of the unfortunate Dominic Foy, who hadn't really done anything very bad, except be a PR man, yet got chased all over the place. Entertaining, but a let-down at the end.
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State of Anarchy
whedonette13 August 2006
Watched this on the recommendation of a Uni lecturer. I thought it was brilliantly acted, the story was paced perfectly, and understandable despite the complexities (political intrigue not usually my thing). That is at least until the last episode when gaping plot holes appeared and half the characters that had been set up in the last 5 episodes were just forgotten about. I didn't buy the resolution - it came out of nowhere and I wasn't convinced that the person taking the fall was really guilty. Not with what they were charged with anyway. There was no resolution for even some of the major characters (most notably Anne). I felt ripped off.

That said, I would watch this again just for the performances. David Morrissey was superb and Bill Nighy is always a great laugh.
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Don't watch the movie, go watch the 2003 BBC miniseries
spicopate6 January 2013
Warning: Spoilers
So State of Play is a movie, a remake from State Of Play, a miniseries (6 episodes of 1 hour) that aired in 2003 on the BBC (UK). As the movie is a remake, I will state the differences and why this movie is so bad, compared with the original.

Main reason : the cast. Here, in the movie,you have Russel Crowe (playing Cal MacCaffrey - established journalist), big movie star with long hair that could be an add for a shampoo as a reviewer already said. You also have Ben Affleck (Stephen Collins), Cutie actor who is as credible as a politician as a tomato trying to look like a green bean. Another Cutie as a woman this time (playing Della Frye, a newbie journalist), the "Girl who has no use in the movie but looks good and that's enough". And the only good actress with an interesting role plays the Editor. And that's all. The whole movie rests on 4 actors.

In the BBC miniseries, between the great John Simm (MacCaffrey, has played the Master on DrWho), David Morissey (Stephen Collins, playing in The Walking Dead), James Mc Avoy, Bill Nighy, Kelly McDonald (Della an accomplished journalist, see the difference with the movie?, now playing in the Boardwalk Empire), Polly Walker and so on... See what I mean ? The miniseries is an ensemble cast series, and that's what makes its greatness.

As for dummy things in the movie : at the end, Russel Crowe (scuse me, Cal MacCaffrey) sits at his desk and writes his 10 pages article in two hours. I didn't know being a journalist was so easy ! In comparison, in the miniseries, Cal Mac Caffrey (John Simm) changes only the title of his article ...

The movie was all about Russel and his hair, Ben and his good look, The Girl and her I don't know what. The miniseries was all about the characters and their depth, the well crafted story, the authenticity of its not world known actresses and actors... I know what I prefer.
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A top notch BBC miniseries
Tweekums19 July 2017
Warning: Spoilers
One day in London two people die; a woman who is a research assistant for an up and coming MP who ends up under a tube train and a young ne're-do-well who is shot in the head. They have nothing obvious in common but it emerges that the latter and called the former shortly before her death. Reporter Cal McCaffrey is convinced that there is a story and starts investigating. He has a slight personal interest as the MP the woman worked for is his old friend Stephen Collins… who it emerges was having an affair with the woman. As the series progresses the situation becomes more dangerous as conspiracies are exposed and people in power, both political and financial, bring pressure on the newspaper McCaffrey work for.

This is definitely a superior series; the plot is gripping from the start and details are revealed in an interesting and believable way. The cast is top notch; most notably John Simm and David Morrissey as McCaffrey and Collins but there are also fantastic performances from Kelly Macdonald, Bill Nighy, James McAvoy and Polly Walker to name just a few. The series contains some impressive twists, including a conclusion that I didn't see coming but still felt believable. As well as a fine drama there are moments of unforced humour, mostly provided by Bill Nighy as the paper's editor and Marc Warren as a man who knows more than he wants to tell… the scene where he tries to run from the police while wearing a neck brace was priceless. Overall I'd highly recommend this to fans of a good mystery with political undertones.
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Best Series I've Seen For A Very Long Time
joellyn91713 August 2011
Okay, this series was made in 2003 and it's now 2011 and it's the first time I'm watching this and all I can think of to say is....WOW. I don't know how I managed to miss this one, but this has to be one of the best written, directed and acted series that I have ever seen. It should be required viewing for every screenwriter, especially American ones, considering the drought of anything quality coming out of Hollywood now. A few of the actors have gone on to become well known movie stars, James McAvoy, Bill Nighy, Kelly MacDonald, and the director David Yates has directed the last 4 Harry Potter movies. The two leads John Simm and David Morrissey were brilliant! They should be getting movie roles as well, and the supporting cast was perfect. Such an exhilarating experience. I want MORE State of Play but this is the only one they did. I suppose Paul Abbott decided that anything else he came up with would pale in comparison. Kudos to the production team for this stellar series!
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Really good BBC material
vhs19992 November 2007
The BBC seem to know how to make good drama. Everything I've seen from the BBC has been excellent. I bought the DVD a few days ago never seen the series before and loved it. David morrissy (Basic Instict 2) was superb in his role as an mp and Bill Nighy (Notes on a scandal) as the boss of the newspaper i thought that was one of his best roles I've seen him in. James McAvoy (Last king of Scotland) was really good in this as well. The BBC seem to be the only people that know how to make political drama's properly. There is a remake of the series being made by the yanks which will star Brad Pitt and Edward Norton which i think is a disgrace that it is being made which will come out in 2008 for those who wish to see more of this type of story.
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Brilliant Political Thriller
demon-6215 December 2010
When I started searching for this mini-series, I got confused because there's a US movie with Russle Crowe that has the same exact title, and the plots are even similar. Although the Russle Crowe movie is pretty good, it doesn't hold a candle to this British mini-series. Seriously, I loved every single second of it. The plot had exciting and unexpected twists and turns. The character development was deep and realistic. There aren't any one dimensional cut and dry good or bad guys. Everyone has very apparent flaws, just like real life. I would definitely recommend this to anyone that likes good well written character driven political thriller type dramas. You won't be disappointed. I wish American TV mini-series were more like this. I have more reviews on my blog at If you're interested in checking it out.
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An exhilarating Drama
pavanratnaker9 April 2012
As far as TV thrillers go, this must must be right up there. It's a six episode series which keeps you engrossed and at the edge of the seat almost throughout. The cast is really good and each of the 5-6 main characters are equally important in making the story work and they do a splendid job. The director does a superb job and probably along with the story writer is the one who gets the tempo going and keeps it going almost till the end. The main reason for not getting a10/10 rating is the fact that the way story ends and how the last episode transpires is a huge let down, especially when the first five episodes are spectacular. But let that not deter you because it still makes for a very entertaining, taut,suspense thriller, which not many TV series have ever done.
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