22 November 2008 | timdalton007
A First Rate Poltical Thriller
A left wing candidate is elected after a hard fought campaign by his right wing rivals. No I am not talking about the 2008 U.S. Presidential election. That is the in fact the beginning of A Very British Coup, an excellent and all too plausible miniseries about a left wing British Prime Minister who radical policies lead to members of the right wing establishment trying to bring him down. In fact it for interesting viewing especially in today's world.
Any good production needs a good cast and A Very British Coup has an excellent cast. Ray McAnally gives the greatest performance of his all too short career as Prime Minister Harry Perkins. McAnally captures perfectly the plain-spoken, charismatic leader in both good times and bad. As Perkins, McAnally makes you want to stand up and cheer for him especially with his final speech. McAnally of course is just the tip of the cast. As Perkins biggest enemy is Alan MacNaughtan as Sir Percy Browne, the almost and quietly threatening head of MI5 who sits at the center of the web of conspiracy to bring down Perkins. The supporting cast is made up of some Britain's finest actors from Keith Allen to Tim McInnery, Philip Madoc, Marjorie Yates, Geofrey Beevers, Jim Carter and Oscar Quitak amongst others. Even in small parts like Inspector Page (Bernard Kay) and Annette Newsome (Caroline John) are filled with terrific actors.
The real star of A Very British Coup is its script. Alan Plater takes Chris Mullin's novel and crafts it into a fascinating study of a government under siege from within. Often in political films or series the plot takes head over the dialogue which leads to stifled dialogue. Plater doesn't let that happen and the dialogue never seems stifled but real and urgent. In fact the whole script seems real and urgent despite some of the issues being dated (such as nuclear disarmament). The fascinating thing about watching this is that change an issue or two and this could be today. The result is a story that has the ability to fascinate some twenty years later.
Another important aspect of the productions is its visuals. Director Mick Jackson and cinematographer Ernie Vincze use the camera and screen time wisely. The result is that A Very British Coup is as much a visual feast as anything else with moments in parts two and three that stand out even today. The miniseries is, as a result, a dark and grainy world full of enemies and thinly veiled threats. This even truer when combined with the music of John Keane and the performances of the cast.
The result of all this from the exceptional performance of Ray McAnally, the performances of the cast, an excellent script that's all too plausible and a visual feast makes A Very British Coup a first rate political thriller. It may be twenty years old and somewhat dated at times but it makes a fascinating viewing that still carries weight today. For at its heart A Very British Coup carries an important and time less message: the greatest enemy of a democracy is not from without but from within. It's a message we shouldn't ignore.