Before it became a moderately successful star-studded feature film, State of Play was a high-octane political thriller that aired on the BBC. This six hour miniseries contains many of the same elements found in its Americanized counterpart, but expands upon political and journalistic issues and intrigue in a much more detailed manner.
If you’ve seen the film, which stars Russell Crowe, Ben Affleck, and Rachel McAdams, you’ll recognize a lot of similarities between episode one of the miniseries and the first half of the movie. In fact, they are pretty much identical. Which means that the next five hours of story were compressed into one hour for the movie.
Does it work? Well, consider the pros and cons that come with adapting anything. If you take a short story and blow it up into a three hour monster of a film (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) there will be significant changes as new story elements must be created to compensate for the lack of narrative detail.
On the other hand, State of Play does the opposite; taking six hours of story and confining it to two hours. All the plot points are there, but some must be sacrificed in order to make the movie palatable and accessible to movie-going audiences. So while the miniseries is allowed to go down many different story tangents, paths, and sub-plots, the film must remain on course. Just imagine a two hour Lost movie that has to fit a season’s worth of story into two hours.
Aside from this overly bloated analysis, the mini-series’s cast is just as stellar as the American film. The cast includes Bill Nighy (Davey Jones from Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End, the Underworld trilogy), James McAvoy (Atonement, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe), and Kelly Macdonald (No Country for Old Men). All first-rate actors who give intense and riveting performances.
The only bonus features present are audio commentaries on episodes one and six, so not much in terms of exciting extras. If you enjoyed the movie, or were unsure about it, I recommend watching the BBC miniseries beforehand. That way you can judge how effective each is in delivering essentially the same story.