"The State Within" is a pleasing thriller on just about every count. The acting is good (especially Jason Isaacs as Sir Mark Brydon, British ambassador to the U.S.; Ben Daniels as Nicholas Brocklehurst, British spyguy; Eva Birthistle as Jane Lavery, civil rights attache at the British embassy; and Marnie McPhail as FBI agent George Blake--she's particularly impressive). The script and plot are good: intricate, brainy, but not impossibly so. The cinematography is good. And the basic premise of the show--that it's frequently in corporate and political interests to start wars--is all too true, as recent events have sadly shown.
In addition to all this, it can hardly be denied that the BBC is taking a poke at the Bush administration in "The State Within." Instead of a vice president pulling strings and manipulating world events behind the scenes, the film makes the Secretary of Defense, hard as nails Lynn Warner (ably played by Sharon Gless), the eminence grise. But as the story unfolds, viewers discover that there are powers manipulating her as well, putting a new and frightening spin on Eisenhower's valedictory warning against the military industrial complex.
A few earlier reviewers dismissed "The State Within" as a bit of U.S. baiting. But, notwithstanding the thinly veiled allusions to Vice Presdient Cheney, this strikes me as a rather unreflective analysis. As a major world power, the U.S. certainly takes a centerstage position in the film. But the theme is more about the abuse of power by international financial corporate interests than about nationalist imperialism. In a day and age when such interests are at least as powerful as state governments, the message of "The State Within" is timely.