State of Play (BBC)

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One of the TV series that I finally got round to watch this Easter holidays was State of Play. It’s a six-part miniseries from 2003 that stars some of the finest British acting talent around. It tells the story of an MP, Stephen Collins, (David Morrissey) whose secretary falls in front of a tube station. Shortly after suspicion starts to arise as to whether their relationship was truly just on a business level and it doesn’t take long for him to be forced to admit that they were, in fact, having an affair together. Cal McCaffrey, one of the country’s top journalists is given the task of digging up as much dirt on the story as possible but since he has a personal relationship with Collins he is reluctant to dig as deep as he normally would. Until his colleague, Della Smith (Kelly Macdonald) finds a link between the secretary’s death and the death of a young black male that happened at the same time. As the plot thickens the events around the death are found to reveal a shady story that takes a deep look into the darker sides of politics and journalism. The show also stars Bill Nighy, James McAvoy and Phillip Glenister.

State of Play is something really special. One of the tensest series I’ve ever watched with a mystery so well thought out that the slow unravelling of truth becomes a fast-paced thriller full of dark secrets. As you would expect with such an amazing cast the acting is superb but the standout of the programme as a whole it’s writing. The whole series is written by Paul Abbott who previously wrote Cracker and has since been the creator of Shameless. It’s hard to fathom though how such a multi-faceted series can have come from just one mind and makes the whole thing even more impressive.

It is, without over-exaggerating, one of the best tv shows I’ve ever watched and it makes me wonder why there isn’t more stuff like this about on TV. It’s made all the more relevant with the Leveson inquiry still fresh in the memory as it questions the relationship between the press and the government so if you haven’t seen it before now is a better time than any.

Trance

TRASA-767.DNGNow Danny Boyle is probably the biggest British director around after the success of Slumdog Millionaire and the small matter of the Olympic opening ceremony. It may seem strange then that his latest film, Trance, is a relatively low-budget affair costing a mere ¬£13 million showing that no one can predict what the Academy-award winning director is going to do next. Trance is another new territory in terms of theme for Boyle as well, having already covered drug culture, sci-fi, zombies, romance and a man chopping off his own arm with Trance he goes right inside the mind with a twisting, turning plot of hypnosis and amnesia. The film is about Simon (James McAvoy), an art auctioneer, who is in charge of getting paintings to safety in the event of a robbery, when this happens however he bares the brunt of a blow to the head and when he comes to it turns it he was in on the whole thing but has completely forgotten what he’s done with it. With ¬†criminal, Franck (Vincent Cassell) and his gang breathing down his neck to remember the group decide they’re going to have to try something drastic in order to trigger Simon’s memory. They choose Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson), a psychiatrist, to hypnotise him in the hope she might somehow get the information out of him but end up getting a lot more than they all bargained for, the further we go on the more we find out that what we know about the events are not at all what they first seemed.

The film is incredibly plot-heavy and every ten minutes something new is revealed that gives everything a new meaning, at times it gets a bit much and there are various points where I was getting annoyed at the fact that we kept seeing the same things over and over but each time we’re told that the way we’d seen it before was wrong begging the question of why we needed to see it in the first place. On the other hand though the tension is built superbly throughout so when you begin to actually find out some genuine information about what went on it feels incredibly rewarding, when everything comes to a head in the films finale Boyle’s experience shines through and it results in a tense and action-packed few scenes that really get your pulse raging. It’s a shame then that overall the plot is over-heavy with twists and by the time it actually ends it all feels over explained when things could easily have been rounded off slightly earlier and the film would have been better for it. Trance has everything else going for it but unfortunately it lets itself down.

It’s not a complete failure, I was entertained the whole way through and there were moments were it was exceptional. Cassell’s performance was a stand-out and there are visual flourishes that look so good you’d be hard done by to look past them because of the over-exuberant story. It’s unfortunate that Trance does not quite stand up against its directors body of work but it’s not his biggest misfire by any stretch and it still manages to showcase his unique film-making talent that seems to lend itself to any kind of film you could imagine.