Secret State (2012)
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The show is by no means perfect. It plays to some very old stereotypes in these situations... that everyone is very posh, in it for themselves, that women have to be aggressive and man-like. The moustache-twirling is used to very high degrees.
It of course also takes very broad and simplistic positions on many topics, as it is only a four episode series.
But at its core is an interesting mystery/political thriller, and a good mix of dynamics between government, big business and the banks. Gabriel Byrne is great and distracts from some of the narrative issues well, and delivers West Wing–like speeches at times, and supporting actors such as Ruth Negga provide good turns even if their roles are limited.
One review commented that it was made for stupid 14 year olds, which is the classic way of putting down others by saying if you like it you are clearly a stupid child. However, that reviewer takes things far too seriously. Commenting that in a national tragedy a deputy prime minister wouldn't waste his time going to speak to local residents just shows that he was looking for issues within the first five minutes of the show.
If you crave reality, or accuracy to minute detail, then this show isn't for you. It's fiction at the end of the day. Realistic it isn't, but it does give food for thought and is an entertaining mini series.
Filmed in 2011 or so the setting is UK in the present time. Lots of unfortunate events happen at one time. The 4 part series is about the political reaction to those events. Happenings and reactions are realistic enough to be relevant although cutting it fine on the dramatic side. Most relevant modern popular political topics are in the series, like terrorism, government surveillance, political infighting and moneys effect on politics.
Minuses are few, the biggest one being the series being way too short and compact :) Other minuses are ambiguities here and there and some minor connections between people and issues that seem a bit strange.
Acting is overall good. To me especially Gabriel Byrne playing the leading role does well.
In short this is must see if you like political drama.
Last week we got episode one of "Secret State", allegedly 'loosely' based Alan Plater's superb adaptation of Chris Mullin's book "A Very British Coup". What a difference.
The premise was good, a Bhopal style disaster in Teeside, the casting included some of Britain's finest talent, and the production values were very good.
All this was completely wasted by a script that was puerile, full of clichéd soundbites, and by lousy directing and a cast of stock characters that would have made it into Michael Green's "The Art of Coarse Acting". We had a gonad crunching ambitious female politician, a smarmy yuppie-type ambitious politician, a drunken journo/ex-spook who knows where the metaphorical and possibly literal bodies are buried, and a young feisty journo who pops up with information nobody else has ever heard of.
Has Mr Jones never watched "Yes Minister" or "The Thick of It"?
His opening scenario was ludicrous. In real life the deputy PM would not be sitting in a local school hall being harangued by angry residents. That thankless task would have gone to some junior underling at the Energy Department.
Nor does a pathologist have the power to withhold bodies from being released for burial, that authority lies with the Coroner. If a pathologist had serious concerns about unexplained toxins in body tissue s/he would have consulted their colleagues in the Home Office. Nor would said pathologist be telephoning the Deputy PM as if that individual was the only person with authority in the entire governmental system.
Given the apparent assassination of the PM by a possible terrorist plot how did Ms Kane (alias Gina McKee) manage to get past security to speak to the Deputy PM at aforementioned PM's memorial service? Come to that, where WAS the security?
And why was the head of Intelligence doing her own surveillance work? Does she not have an entire government department dedicated solely for that purpose?
The whole thing seemed to be aimed at not very bright 14 year olds. Do the TV networks really think the viewing public is that dumb?
For shame Channel 4. You've exchanged your credibility for dumbed down broadcasting. You have the temerity to advertise dross like this as 'Drama' while your schedules are chock full of freak shows, crass talent shows, and the dregs of society being filmed in their 'natural habitat' in what passes for "reality" television.
I was hoping for the story to actually go somewhere but i was disappointed.
Its good but too short and deserves a full series and story development.
But definite Kudos for Gabriel Byrnes dramatic performance. He really carried it along.
I enjoyed it but wanted more, it leaves you wanting the story to properly finish, and for "Byrnes" character to fulfill his heroic destiny.
Irish deputy prime minister Tom Dawkins (played by Gabriel Byrne) is thrust into the top job. He is a quiet, reluctant hero, controlled puppet-like by Charles Dance – a smooth, handsome Chief Whip who looks far too charming to be rude to a policeman outside Number 10.
Meanwhile, an investigative journalist (played by ballsy Hebburn mum Gina McKee) appears to have already found out who has done what to who and why.
Government spin, the underlying threat of terrorism, industrial cover-ups – all of these elements were crammed into the first two minutes of Channel 4′s new four part conspiracy thriller Secret State. While stretching credibility to its absolute limit, the overall effect was nonetheless quite intriguing.
The plot was further stirred by Sylvestra Le Touzel and Rupert Graves as two slimy cabinet ministers trying to fill the power void left by the PM's untimely death. There seemed to be so much going on in this fictional version of Number 10 that Nick Robinson (the political correspondent who looks like Little Bear out of Bo' Selecta) would be kept busy around the clock.
Something that has always annoyed me about film drama is that when an important piece of news comes on the telly, the central characters always just listen to the very top of the story and then immediately switch the TV off. This simply doesn't happen in real life.
If you heard in the Sky News headlines that the Prime Minister's plane had plunged into the Atlantic, you wouldn't switch off the TV before hearing the rest of the story. This actually happened twice in Secret State, and was compounded when the PM, after being told another piece of earth-shattering news on the telephone, hung up straight away without waiting to hear the rest of the story.
I'll give Secret State another go next week. But I can't promise that I won't switch it off before the...
Show combines edgy topics about politics, personal freedom and choices with a high technology setup and master craft of British drama. Apart from first half of hour, it is captivating. Multiple facets, many people acting by their best judgement, and above all, a hero. Byrne is doing a great job, yet the character could have been better composed. It is difficult to get emotionally attached to it, but is sure easy to get attached to its actions.
Strongly recommended. Yet be warned, this comes from a guy who considered Downton Abbey the best show ever. Until now.
And that annoying much too loud soundtrack ... please, it doesn't make the story any better by banging on drums as if there was no tomorrow.
Appalling security. Now then, the Prime Minister is assassinated, the Deputy PM inherits the job but is totally oblivious to the obvious security risks considering the recent murder of his boss. He pops down to the pub, goes jogging (always to the same place we are told), goes walking about. There were three bodyguards to start with, later cut down to one.
The PM's Army / Navy / Air Forces advisers seem to consist of one general. Everyone including the PM are all effing and blinding at each other, government buildings are like an indoor market where anyone can come in.
Stereotype characters galore, General with his agenda, two cabinet ministers plotting against the PM, evil banker, evil multinational, GCHQ and MI6 both with their own agendas, the ex-spook (on the booze, of course) going freelance, laptops and computer screens connected to bugs, etc. What were all these otherwise good actors doing in this mess?
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy was 33 years ago ... Still waiting for another gripping series.