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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The State Within
The State Within
BBC Worldwide // Unrated // February 27, 2007
List Price: $29.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Jeffrey Robinson | posted February 13, 2007 | E-mail the Author
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The Mini-Series

The State Within is a six episode mini-series that was produced by BBC and BBC America. It is a suspense/thriller about terrorism and an intricate plot involving United States, Great Britain, and regimes in Asia. The hero is a British Ambassador, who quickly finds himself in a game that could cost him his life. The series does not tackle anything new; the most recent seasons of the Emmy Award winning television drama 24 have had similar plotlines of a dark nature, filled with political corruption, mistrusting good guys, and one twist and turn after the other to keep things fresh. The State Within attempts to follow up this success and manages to offer a decent story that could have been better. Let's face it, leading character Jason Isaacs is no Keifer Sutherland.

Sir Mark Brydon (Jason Isaacs) is the British Ambassador stationed at the embassy in Washington, D.C. During his public career, he gained great admiration from his country and the world for his service in foreign affairs. For the most part, his job as ambassador is a relaxed, cushy job. It is his reward for years of great service. However, Mark's world changes dramatically on the day the story begins. Terrorist explode a bomb on a plane that causes over a hundred people to die, many of whom were British citizens. Mark begins his investigation to find out what is going on and to help the U.S. prevent further causalities. The problem is that Mark quickly finds the problem is more complex than he could ever have imagined. The situation has deceit and corruption at every foot.

The U.S. Secretary of Defense Lynn Warner (Sharon Gless) and undersecretary Christopher Styles (Noam Jenkins) respond to the attack in full force when they learn bomber's ethnic background and nationality. He was a British Asian. Warner imposes a region-wide internment camp, holding British Asian citizens prisoners under the Patriot Act. The act has massive repercussions and eventually is found illegal. But it is the first major situation that Mark has to deal with.

As the story continues, more plotlines unfold with various characters involved, Charles MacIntyre (Nigel Bennett), a defense contractor who has financial reasons for the attack and close ties to key political figures, Nicholas Brocklehurt (Ben Daniels), an MI6 agent who has a secretive past and is willing to bend the rules, Jane Lavery (Eva Birthistle), a Human Rights lawyer who is trying to save the life of British citizen Luke Gardner (Lennie James), a man who is accused of killing two teenager girls, and George Blake (Marnie McPhail), a young FBI agent who wants to find justice.

All of these new characters and their related storylines tie into the big picture, which is an intricate plot about corruption, greed, and terror. What it boils down to is that Mark is in for the most demanding mission that will not only save the lives of British citizens, but many others in the world. The situation is dire because he has no one trust, as everyone seems to have something to gain and everything to lose.

As an overall story The State Within has its moments. The story is fairly interesting and the mystery/suspense portion was done well. While I thought the story was transparent, there were several aspects I did not see coming, which was something I enjoyed about it. However, the biggest problem I had with The State Within was the tempo. The show started with a bang (literally) and had a massive push with lots of excitement. However, as the show progressed, it never resumed the high, intense pace. The show continued to move slowly and needed more action to pump it up. Other difficulties I had were the characters. For instance, Sharon Gless did not make a convincing Secretary of Defense. I thought she was too bratty and way out of character.

In the end, The State Within offers a decent storyline that is more on par with the U.S. mini-series The Grid. The production is worth watching for those who enjoy suspense/thrillers about good guys taking out terrorists. The show, while not very compelling and slow-paced, still offers a solid experience that will make a good rental between seasons of 24.

Episode Guide

1. Episode 1: A British plane crashes in America, sparking off a national emergency and a diplomatic crisis. It emerges the incident was the work of a British suicide bomber. With the 'special relationship' between the UK and the US under threat, the British Ambassador, Sir Mark Brydon, maneuvers American Secretary of Defense, Lynne Warner, into a public show of solidarity. But behind the scenes, tension mounts between the pair. The situation worsens when the Governor of Virginia passes emergency legislation allowing the Virginia National Guard to apprehend and imprison all British Asians in the State.
2. Episode 2: The British Embassy in Washington is besieged by British nationals seeking sanctuary from the Governor of Virginia's draconian policy to round up all British Muslims in the state. Ambassador Mark Brydon is happy to offer it. But as his level-headed deputy Phil Lonsdale reminds him, there's a bigger picture. Priority must be to get the policy reversed. Mark thinks it through – it's a high risk strategy but Chair of the Security Committee Madeleine Cohen might be open to persuasion. His meeting with her is tough to read – has he helped British citizens or made things worse?
3. Episode 3: Charles Macintyre is threatening to file an official complaint about the FBI's handling of his 'entirely legitimate business operation'. He then meets with his co-conspirator - Christopher Styles. Later Macintyre flies a kite with Nicholas Brocklehurst. Meanwhile, Mark spins a proposition to Carl Garcia. Support for the rogue regime in Tyrgyztan is becoming untenable. The UK/US should consider an approach to the democratic opposition. Mark's in a position to make it happen...
4. Episode 4: Following Luke Gardner's death, the letter he left for Jane Lavery takes her to Al Rivero's house in search of Luke's 'kit'. After a scary moment when a nervous Al pulls a gun on her Jane receives the package Luke sent her for – the package that will explain everything.
5. Episode 5: Defense Secretary Warner is well and truly on the warpath - on her way to the UN to make the case for regime change in Tyrgyztan. If they can get a resolution there will be US planes in Central Asia by nightfall. Mark meanwhile is in a dark place. Eshan has been murdered. Downing Street are recalling him to London. Just as it seems that his career is over a lifeline is thrown from an unexpected place. Defense Secretary Warner calls to say that the White House would be unhappy to see Mark Brydon removed from office. Mark's deputy Phil Lonsdale is forced to stand by his boss.
6. Episode 6: Warner's ready to put troops on the ground in Tyrgyztan. Her adviser, Carl urges patience and caution and all but accuses her of profiteering if her husband still has shares in Armitage. At the Pentagon events are catching up with Warner's right hand man Christopher Styles. George Blake has been doggedly piecing together the shards of evidence from all the apparently unrelated stories. She's close to something now. One of the men in the car crash with Jane carried Defense Intelligence department ID. What does Christopher know about Vinnie Swain?

The DVD

Video:
The video in this release is given in an anamorphic 1.78:1 ratio widescreen color format. The picture quality is quite good. It suffers from a slight grain, but detail remains to be sharp and clear. However, there are moments when the picture suffers compression artifacts and hints of edge enhancement. This is most noticeable during the darker scenes. Overall it is a great looking picture.

Audio:
The audio is given in 2.0 Dolby digital stereo sound. In general, the sound quality is good and it provides an audible and clean track. The dialogue is usually a little flat while music and sound effects come off rich and vibrant.

Extras:
For extras, there is a single featurette entitled "Making Of The State Within" (27:46). It stars cast and crew discussing different aspects of making of the mini-series. Specific topics of discussion include what the mini-series' premise, key plot lines, characters, and more. There is also a lot of behind the scenes footage. It was not the most interesting featurette I have seen, which may partly be due to the fact I did not fall head over heels in love with The State Within. However, on the chance you did, it will make for an interesting and informative watch.

Final Thoughts:
The State Within is a suspense/thriller about terrorism and the latest plot against the United States. The hero in this story is a British Ambassador and he quickly finds himself in a world of deceit with no one to trust. It is up to him and a few others to stop the terrorists from claiming more lives and unraveling a bigger plot. Overall, The State Within provides a somewhat intriguing story. The show starts off like fast-paced drama 24 with a catastrophic event and a lot of excitement. Unfortunately, the tempo goes downhill from there and The State Within never picks up the pace again. In the end, The State Within turns out to be a decent suspense/thriller that will make for a good rental between seasons of 24.

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