The book was better

10th May, 2009

This phrase has been an alien concept to me for my entire life. I could never understand friend’s frustrations when they finally saw their favourite book become a film or TV series. Given that I can count the number of sizeable fiction books I’ve read cover to cover on a single hand – seeing one become a film has never been likely. Today however was different.

This evening I saw State of Play starring Russell Crowe, Rachel McAdams and Helen Mirren. This film is based upon 2003 TV series by the same name and focuses on the investigation of a news story by the journalist Cal McCaffrey which started after two murders are linked. This leads us into a thrilling and intriguing discovery of what happened; how deep does the rabbit hole go. Well, in the TV show you get this but not the film.

The TV show is 6 hours of pure bliss of near perfect television. Exquisite, smart and funny writing and some great performances most notably from James McAvoy as Dan Foster (a part that was removed for the film!), Kelly MacDonald as Della Smith and the ever imposing Bill Nighy as Cameron Foster. This show kept me gripped even when I had much more important things to do. I couldn’t stop watching it.

The film however was “sexed” up, it was Hollywood-ised. They killed off characters just to add to the body count even though it didn’t progress the story. They made Della Smith, a junior reporter in the TV show, the head of the web division when again it added nothing to the story. If anything it added a plot hole – why would a senior web journalist need to understand how to investigate a story? Also they added the Hollywood action and obligitory violent ending where the “bad guy” dies and everything is right with the world again. These “additions” did little to improve the story and although I agree they needed to add and remove certain elements to attract a more mainstream audience I don’t feel they made the correct choices.

Overall, I would still give this film a moderate 7 out of 10 but would advise people who loved the TV show to not expect anything too spectacular. The story still has its original themes that are as poignant as ever and there is still some intrigue to keep you following the plot for the length of the film.

No matter what I’ve said, it wasn’t bad it’s just that… the TV show was better.