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?
I enjoyed this but felt that it could have been so much better. I didn't think the characters were well cast and some were very weak. You need to pay attention, because there is a lot packed into 4 episodes.
The brilliant four part Channel 4 mini-series Secret State is well worth a look. A remake of a 1988 TV mini series A Very British Coup Secret State manages to do what conspiracy thrillers should do i.e. thrill and keep you gripped.
To be honest I have done a little research about the reactions of others on the internet of all places to see what other people think of the show. I decided to check the legitimate reviewers opinions out of curiosity and aparently they are none too thrilled at this conspiracy thriller citing a lack of 'realism' and aparently the premise is 'ludicrous' and the 'show is out of touch with what is important currently'. Really? Really? With all due respect to these comments what ever happened to a little escapism, you know a show with a nice twisty plot with a conspiracy between a few supervillians. But the critics complain that it is not as good as Homeland; well of course it is not but it is one great enjoyable piece of television none the less.
Gabriel Byrne might play one of the most ludicrous unrealistic characters of all time; a noble politician who manages to become PM but man did I root for him.
Like all good conspiracy thrillers you are gripped and genuinely interested in how it will all end.
Oh and just one more thing that makes this show great; have you checked the cast. Just plain awesome.
You might have noticed that this so called review doesn't mention one single plot detail, well I noticed that after one episode that they had a next time on feature. Watched it and lets say they gave away too much. Really to enjoy twisty little thrillers like this it is best to know as little as possible about the plot so you can concentrate on figureing the plot out and get it wrong along the way.
Yes, the show might be a little unrealistic but why should this matter when the plot keeps you gripped and the cast is this good. Plus I really would like to see more programmes like this on TV considering the last programme I seen that was this good was The State Within (come to think of it the plots are really really similar). If you liked The State Within then you should like this and vice versa. Brilliantly gripping television.
If you want an actor to play a man who seems to have the weight of the world on his shoulders, then Gabriel Byrne is your man. He can look weary without looking hangdog, and he can win your sympathy through sheer doggedness. So he's the man to play Tom Dawkins, the Deputy Prime Minister of the UK who is thrust into the top job when the PM's plane goes down, under mysterious circumstances, as he returns from a visit to the USA. The plane that goes down is a jet owned by Petrofex, a multi-national energy company whose north-of-England plant has been the site of a chemical explosion that killed about a score of people and wounded many more. The government -- Tom's party -- had negotiated the deal that brought Petrofex to England, and it now seems that one reason was that safety standards there were considerably less tight than they would have been in the US. Accountability is called for, and suddenly, Tom is the man who has to deliver it. Two members of his party and his cabinet who covet the top job -- Felix Durrell (Rupert Graves) and Ros Yelland (Sylvestra La Touzel) -- can hardly wait to see him stumble. Tom is that kind of politician that the movies can't do without -- a man of integrity who cares more about "the people" than about his career and who, as a result, comes across as idealistically naive to his political opponents and as attractive to us viewers.
I'm going to avoid spoilers here, so I'll just say that Tom learns just how closely the intelligence divisions of his government, MI5 and MI6, while not exactly at ease with one another, are nonetheless complicit with the Defense chiefs, "big business," and the banks, and that they all have interests that are not really Tom's. The result is that Tom's enquiries into both the chemical explosion and the plane crash are hampered by these competing interests, and the interest of the story is how Tom tries to find a way to be accountable and honest. The action takes place around 2012, so the financial crisis has occurred, and it turns out that as a result Tom has a bit more leverage than he thought he did . . .
Tom isn't exactly the last honest man -- there's a dogged newspaper reporter called Ellis Kane (Gina McKee), the troubled intelligence gatherer Agnes Evans (Ruth Negga), the alcoholic ex-intelligence agent Tony Fossett (Douglas Hodge), and none of them like what's going on and, unknown to one another, try to share important information with Tom. It seems remarkably easy in the age of the cell phone for private citizens to get in touch with the PM!! The more dubious characters include excellent actors like Stephen Dillane as the CEO of Petrofex, Anton Lesser as the CEO of the Royal Caledonian Bank, and Nicholas Farrell as a Defense chief. And the great Charles Dance, in full mellifluous voice, is John Hodder, the Chief Whip, who is clearly sympathetic to Tom and who admires him but who, at the end of the day, wants to be sure that his party doesn't lose hold of power. As things develop and the prospect of Middle East military confrontation looms, Tom's position in his own party becomes less secure. Tom's efforts to bring about the circumstances that he believes best for the country are ingeniously contrived, but will they work?
The four episodes take 180 minutes. I wouldn't have minded a bit more expansion in the direction of "State of Play," for the characters are interesting enough to warrant it. However, the relative brevity keeps the action tight and the suspense ramped up, though American viewers unfamiliar with the British Parliamentary system might find themselves a bit unsure of elements in the ending. Still -- much to enjoy. The performances are very good and the atmosphere of paranoia and suspicion is very well maintained.
This is the best thing I've seen on television for ages. Kept me gripped and desperate for the next episode...my only criticism was that the ending was a trifle sudden and left me wanting more. For anybody who missed it or who would like to watch again, well worth buying.