Sunday, September 29, 2013

The State Within

Some of the best things we've seen on DVDs we've borrowed from the Library have been TV series we never caught up on when they were first broadcast.  If they were broadcast here at all.

Over the last couple of days we've watched the six hour-long episodes of The State Within, in which Jason Isaacs plays the British Ambassador in Washington, a man of considerable integrity and honesty, and an unwillingness to play the warmongering game that the current Secretary for Defense is playing.

The series had innumerable twists and turns - some of which, in hindsight, seemed to be there for no reason more than to cast suspicion on a character - but it was well written, very well directed and presented, and had a solid cast of Brits and Yanks. And a big budget, too; early in the piece a passenger plane is blown up over a motorway, and this is only one of a number of large set-pieces.

The series was written and directed by Daniel Percival, and co-authored by Lizzie Mickery, a writer with a great deal of television experience behind her.  Percival began his career as a documentary maker, and his eye for the right detail shows throughout this series.  Michael Offer also shared the directing credits. There'd need to be a co-director: taking on the mammoth task of directing more than six hours of film would require the stamina and brain of a workaholic.  However the work was shared out (they claim three episodes each on imdb.com) there's no sense of this not being all of a piece.

Isaacs more regularly plays suave villains, some more evil than others (The Patriot, Harry Potter), but here he brings his talents to a role that requires him to be hero, substitute father, solid friend, lover and whatever else he has time for. He's on screen for a great deal of the time, and makes a considerable impact, and gives a solid centre to the series.  His offsider is played by Ben Daniels, who is required to keep us guessing throughout (even after it's been revealed which side he's playing on).  Daniels manages this difficult task well, especially as in a couple of instances there seems to be a bit of a puzzle in the scriptwriters' minds as to how far into the double-dealing game he's gone.  There are a host of other characters, many of whom stand out, but it's great to see Sharon Gless, Cagney from the 80s Cagney and Lacey series in a role that allows her some wider leeway for her talent.

The series, which was made in 2006, hasn't dated at all; warmongering with smaller nations, which plays a strong part in the plot, is as rampant as ever, as is the hyping-up of terrorism as an excuse. 

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