While competing with real-life political scandals is increasingly tricky for television fiction, The Secret State
is a twisty, intriguing thriller that does its best to measure up to the real thing. The programme’s trump card is some of its delicious casting. Gabriel Byrne takes the lead role as Tom Dawson, the Deputy Prime Minister of Great Britain caught in the middle of a growing political hurricane. It involves a chemical plant disaster, lots of plotting by shady characters, and an impending national crisis. Joining Byrne is Charles Dance, in a quality supporting role.
The Secret State deals with big themes, and it’s put together in quite a gritty, dark way. It’s consistently entertaining, too, even if the narrative itself doesn’t bear too much close scrutiny. Certainly there are one or two moments where you need to take a leap of faith to stay on board with the programme, but there’s usually something interesting just around the proverbial corner.
The disc release takes a behind the scenes look at the show, although it doesn’t delve too deeply. But it’s still a good package you’re getting for your money here, and The Secret State is worth it for Gabriel Byrne’s work alone. --Jon Foster
United Kingdom released, PAL/Region 2 DVD: LANGUAGES: English ( Dolby Digital Stereo ), English ( Subtitles ), WIDESCREEN (1.78:1), SPECIAL FEATURES: Behind the scenes, Interactive Menu, Scene Access, SYNOPSIS: Secret State is a four-part political thriller inspired by Chris Mullin's novel A Very British Coup, delving into the relationship between a democratically elected government, the military and the markets. In the run up to a general election, an accident on Teesside raises awkward questions about the safety procedures of a US petrochemical company, PetroFex. The Prime Minister claims to have secured a compensation package from them, but on his return from PetroFex HQ, his plane crashes in the Atlantic under mysterious circumstances. Deputy Prime Minister Tom Dawkins (Gabriel Byrne) takes the reins and during his quest to find justice and the truth for the victims on Teesside, he uncovers a conspiracy at the heart of the political system. How will he deal with the powers at play? And can he remain that rare thing: a decent, honest man in politics? ...Secret State ( Coup )