State of Play

by deerinthexenonarclights

Though the concept of the re-make has long since simply been accepted as a part of our popular culture there is still some stigma surrounding those adaptations that exist too closely to the originals and this is such a case. State of Play was originally a British mini-series and to the British the Mini-series isn’t the lowest rung on the entertainment ladder like it is in the states, quite the opposite in fact (due mostly perhaps to the fact that all British series are relatively speaking, mini); when this a series as good as this one hits the airwaves it makes a momentous impact on the industry and culture of the time. So it is entirely understandable that US executives would want to get in on this but they have approached it all upside down and instead of simply airing this modern, entertaining, star-studded, English language show on one of their networks they decided to go to the considerable effort and take the considerable risk of re-making it as a feature film, and it really doesn’t pay off.

The film begins in an identical manner to the original, beat for beat, shot for shot, but then – only a minute or two in – it makes it’s first stumble and flies over most powerful and beguiling moment of that opening sequence. Not a good start. Fortunately then as the film continues it learns to better manage its footwork, stepping into and out of the established narrative with some grace; and when it treads this new ground it generally does it quite well.

Given that the original series is so recent its content did at times feel a little outdated and so it is nice to see the death of print media reflected within the film and what it has to say about blogs and video news is really rather fascinating. So to is the change of central case from a cabinet energy panel to a military tribunal a good move and one that makes the cases’ final logic feel a lot more sound. Unfortunately though, as good as these script changes are the on-screen ones kill them.

Russel Crowe is uncharismatic and incorrigable as the lead, channeling Thirty Odd Foot of Grunt more than Gladiator and McAdams, who I usually love (See: Morning Glory), makes a bland Della. One would also imagine that an American re-make would ramp up the action, but if anything  those scenes are actually toned down here and made a lot more bland. Where the original would set up tension and build towards a set-piece this one simply has it happen in a second, just to get it over and done with. Perhaps this is a case where the medium simply allowed the original extra time, but surely it is hard these days to argue against film being an action based medium.

So where the original still stays strong in my mind – strong enough that I did admittedly notice the differences and subtractions in a harmful way – I have already forgotten most of this re-make, in fact I often forgot that I was watching it throughout, my mind wandering off somewhere else. What has stuck with me the most from this film is its amazing set design, which is something that I never normally notice but I found the work here noteworthy. Of course that I was paying so much attention to the sets instead of the plot and/or characters speaks volumes on this films success and failures.