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Secret State

Secret State

By Patrick Samuel • January 3rd, 2013
Static Mass Rating: 5/5
Channel 4

Release date: December 3rd, 2012
Running time: 240 minutes

Director: Ed Fraiman
Writers: Robert Jones, Chris Mullin

Cast: Gabriel Byrne, Charles Dance, Douglas Hodge, Gina McKee, Rupert Graves, Ruth Negga

Secret State

In recent years we’ve wondered how close the relationship between the British press and the government really is. Are they really in bed with each other and if so is it more of a booty call when one side needs to scratch an itch that only the other can reach, or something much more mutual? Yet both sides have a knack for knowing what secrets to keep but every so often something slips out and downstream creating shockwaves the rest of us are helplessly caught in as we try to figure out what’s really going. The scandal surrounding MPs expenses, cash for influence and even the shocking sex secrets of Liberal Democrats Home Affairs spokesman Mark Oaten when the News of the World revealed his penchant for rent boys made us remember that the role the press played was not only to report the news as it was happening but to help keep those appointed and elected to preside over us in check, financially and morally.

Secret State, based on former MP’s Chris Mullen’s 1982 novel A Very British Coup, sets out to explore both the relationship between the British press and the government and the lengths each side may go to as the stakes are gradually increased to the level of national security, putting lives and the banking system at great risk.

It opens with a devastating industrial accident on Teesside which leaves 19 people dead and many questions being asked about the safety procedures of a US petrochemical company, PetroFex, headed by Paul Jacob Clark (Stephen Dillane). As the investigation gets underway reporter Ellis Kane (Gina McKee) tries to get ahead on the story by interviewing Deputy Prime Minister Tom Dawkins (Gabriel Byrne) who, although is very busy, does his best to give her a few moments of his time while in the midst of a crisis. The crisis somewhat multiplies though when the Prime Minister, Charles Flyte (Tobias Menzies), is killed in a plane crash on his return from a visit with Clark to secure a compensation package for the victims families.

Secret State

While the authorities start another investigation, this time into the possibility that the Prime Minister’s death was due to an act of terrorism, Dawkins finds himself in a difficult spot as he begins to uncover a conspiracy at the heart of the political system linking it with some very powerful figures in the banking world. His suspicion grows when he learns from a pathologist there were high amounts of toxic content in the blast victims’ bodies, but before he can do any more to make sense of his results, his time runs out.

As Dawkins assumes the role of Prime Minister he also discovers he can’t rely on warmongering Foreign Secretary Ros Yelland (Sylvestra Le Touzel) and Home Secretary Felix Durrell (Rupert Graves) who’re pursuing their own agendas and who won’t think twice about stabbing him in the back, figuratively at least.

His only ally it seems is his old friend and former MI5 agent Tony Fossett (Douglas Hodge) and despite having a serious drinking he asks him to help him find information to prove there’s a conspiracy. Meanwhile Agnes Evans (Ruth Negga) who works for GCHQ starts her own investigation and uncovers that very information Secret Statewhile listening in on Fossett’s calls. After witnessing the lengths the conspirators will go to cover up that information she goes rogue and tries to get in touch with Dawkins, but she too becomes alienated in the quest to tell the truth about what’s really going on.

With so much going on in just four episodes, Secret State doesn’t waste any time. The script remains sharp throughout and though it’s an update of the 1988 Channel 4 television movie directed by Mick Jackson and starring Ray McAnally, this 2012 version is by no means running on old ideas. The way the Prime Minister’s treated by his peers and is spoken to by Kane might come as a shock at first as they’re very blunt with him. We might think he’s the Prime Minister and there should be certain boundaries or at least some etiquette when speaking to such a figure, but like he says at one point “You get to the top and you realise it’s really only the middle.”

As we get to the crux of it there are some surprising revelations, not just about PetroFex but also about Dawkins’ past which comes back to haunt him. It’s in his dealings with Kane that this intriguing mini-series captures something about the way our press handles information that the government would sometimes prefer to cover up, but it leads to ask…“does doing the right thing for the wrong reasons still make it the right thing?”

Secret State

Patrick Samuel

Patrick Samuel

The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is an emerging artist with a philosophy degree, working primarily with pastels and graphite pencils, but he also enjoys experimenting with water colours, acrylics, glass and oil paints.

Being on the autistic spectrum with Asperger’s Syndrome, he is stimulated by bold, contrasting colours, intricate details, multiple textures, and varying shades of light and dark. Patrick's work extends to sound and video, and when not drawing or painting, he can be found working on projects he shares online with his followers.

Patrick returned to drawing and painting after a prolonged break in December 2016 as part of his daily art therapy, and is now making the transition to being a full-time artist. As a spokesperson for autism awareness, he also gives talks and presentations on the benefits of creative therapy.

Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and science fiction, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.

Patrick Samuel ¦ Asperger Artist

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