This is a mostly well done American remake of the British miniseries. It’s considerably condensed but it also sort of fixes – or at least addresses – my biggest problem with the British version.
It’s an incredible cast, first off. And that helps particularly when the film lapses into newspaper movie cliches. And that’s because they’ve decided to retell this story as a combination of an American newspaper movie and a ’70s paranoia thriller. (And yes, at one point those were the same thing.) There were some elements of that in the British version but this film really leans into it, with the whole Washington setting and all. And so it helps to have good actors shouting at each other when the film gets to the inevitable journalist vs editor, don’t publish vs publish fight, which is so much of a cliche.
The story is super condensed. It’s been long enough since I saw the TV show that I don’t remember exactly everything that is omitted or changed. But I think the decision to tell this story in a 2 hour movie instead of a 5 or 6 episode TV series mostly works to the story’s benefit. As a mini series it was a touch too long and the way it was told made it quite hard to believe the ending.
The way they handle it is better in this version, I think, because Affleck’s character is complicit and bad but not as Machiavellian or awful as the Morrissey version (at least in my memory). And it’s a lot easier to take the reveal this time around. (Of course, that could just be because I knew it was coming.)
I don’t love the brief extra climax of this one – it feels too action movie to me. I don’t remember there being a similar moment in the British version. But, on the whole this is a pretty decent version of a British miniseries that probably didn’t need a US movie version, given that it could have just become a streaming hit a decade and a bit after its release (not that anyone would have known that in 2009).