State of Play
Every character appearing in this 6episode BBC television series is a traitor. And the greater the interval each character spends on screen is the rough index of exactly how complete, complex and intricate is the betrayal of each one’s nexus of conflicted faiths.
One interesting and inevitable difference between the series and the movie resides in the difference between 127 minutes and slightly more than 300, but the television version is vastly more sophisticated and interesting because it questions practically everything in which the audience places its confidence, including the blameless innocence of the television audience that relishes celebrity scandal, corruption in high office, and juicy stories that betoken the fall of comercialized journalism into the valley of the shadow of Internet.
Both stories center on the strenuous intelligence efforts of crusading journalists to dig ever deeper through layers of misleading lies while ferretting out Absolute Truth. The American version keeps the protagonists (mostly Russel Crowe) reasonably pristine and admirable as he fearlessly plunges into the corrupting fusion of Big Business with Big Government that’s localized, crystalized and focused on a personal story to which he’s intimately tied through friendship, personal history and covetous, romantic aspiration — Big Media’s also complicit, by the way.
The American version whitewashes the protagonist for an NC17 audience that doesn’t really need to know about the British version of Cal McCaffery’s realized erotic liaison with his former best friend’s wife and the innumerable instances in which he lies to practically everybody with whom he comes in contact (recording conversations, bluffing to achieve advantage, betraying every confidence and in the process resigning himself from a personal life) while chasing the tail of a really Big Story, as though they don’t always shoot the messenger, because they always do.
All of the people in the British version are versions of Dominic Foy, deceitful, comedic tool and moderately-competent intermediary for deceitful Higher Powers. The public face of decency, particularly in Foy, is always a dubious cover for the increasingly obvious treacheries that teem beneath his twitchy exterior. The transparencies of Dominic’s various poses make him the comic foil pushed by the crusading journalists, and pulled by the various aformentioned Higher Powers, to spill every last bit of his guts with a ridiculous reluctance that’s drawn out through the length of the series, and culminates in a pathetic symphony of bathos in which we clearly see ourselves. The thing is that everyone else who appears in the series goes through the very same process of being compelled by external forces to spill the truths of their chosen melange of indiscretions. That even applies to Sonia Baker, whose single, deliberate act of conscience results in her suicide/murder that gets the whole gigantic wrecking-ball started.
The tale of the unravelling of John Simm’s Cal McCaffery takes upwards of 300 minutes to tell, but it procedes with a dark and ominous inevitablility that dwarfs the crises of conscience illustrated by Russel Crowe.
The state of the art of double-dealing is exquisitely rendered in the longform version of State of Play (which concludes without a conspicuous, resounding thunderclap of private resolution), although I very much enjoyed the movie version that offers a shred of hope of redemption for a world that’s now run by…(wait for it, Dominic)…my everloving peers.
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