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State of Play (2009) PG-13 127min

April 18th, 2009 by Maxim · 1 Comment · 30,322 Views

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4/5

State of Play” is a contemporary political thriller based on award-wining BBC TV series with the same title. Directed by Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland, Touching the Void), starring Russell Crowe, Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams (The Notebook, Married Life, The Family Stone, The Hot Chick), Helen Mirren (The Queen, Raising Helen, Inkheart, Gosford Park), Robin Wright Penn, Jason Bateman (Hancock, Forgetting Sarah Marshall) and Jeff Daniels.

The plot: Congressman Steven Collins (Ben Affleck) is a rising star in his party and he is a member of a committee investigating a private security company responsible for civilian deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan. But when a woman from his staff is brutally murdered, dirty secrets begin to come out, and congressman Collins has nobody else to turn to but his friend from college Cal McAffrey (Russell Crowe) from a financially troubled Washington-based newspaper. While Congressman Collins is managing “damage control” of the news of his affair with the murdered staff member, there are several other seemingly-random murders, and Cal with his new young partner Della Frye (Rachel McAdams) are first on the scene. Cal and Della need to figure out how and why the murders are linked, under pressure from their very tough editor Cameron (Helen Mirren) to publish the story before others do to increase paper’s circulation, while Cal’s motives to find out the truth go way beyond journalistic integrity. All evidence points to a corporate conspiracy and a trained assassin who will stop at nothing.

The good: Great story with two unexpected twists at the end, mostly thanks to contribution of the writers, Tony Gilroy (The Devil’s Advocate, Bourne movies, Proof of Life, Duplicity) and Matthew Carnahan (Lions for Lambs, The Kingdom). Even though the story is an adaptation of British TV series, the plot idea seems fresh in its contemporary setting. Every character is human and worth rooting for. Every character, protagonists and antagonists, are interesting, three-dimensional and flowed. You never quite know how the story is going to go. Lots of suspense – you will be on the edge of the sit. Very good acting – not surprisingly with the cast full of stars. Russell Crowe is great as always. Helen Mirren was outstanding and memorable, and Rachel Adams (from The Notebook) is just ok. Jason Bateman was great – his character is an asshole who is so repulsive he’s actually funny and likable.

Interesting to note that the film shows that journalism suffers from the same hypocrisy as corrupt politicians and the corporations who are corrupting them to get favorable legislation or taxpayers’ money. Every day journalists have to chose between journalist’s duty and financial interests of their employers and their sponsors.

The whole idea of privatizing national security was very interesting and scary, but it wasn’t developed in the plot – there was enough intrigue without it. Much more interesting is how past mistakes of the characters lead to suffering and even deaths of people, and each may not even know about others’ existence.

Enjoyed the newspaper printing sequence during the closing credits.

The bad: I don’t understand what the title of the movie means in relation to the plot.

Ben Affleck is a bad actor. He probably practiced in front of the mirror, but everything he does seems forced and fake. While Russell Crowe’s performance is so good I actually remembered the name of his character, Ben Affleck always remained just Ben Affleck. He also doesn’t look like his character could have been in college at the same time as Russell Crowe’s character.

Helen Mirren’s performance was very good and memorable, but I don’t think she’s a good match for the role; I’d rather see someone like Meryl Streep there. Some camera angles were giving me a vertigo or creating a sense that something bad is going to happen any moment, like in cheap thrillers or horror movies. Music was appropriate for a thriller, but not memorable in any way. Some minor plot holes, such as why nobody saw a woman being pushed in front of the arriving train in a crowded train station, and none of the 50 security cameras catch it, and she happened to stop right where the camera blind spot was.

The summary: A great thought-provoking thriller with fantasic cast and great acting and plot with many twists. Despite a lot of dialog in the movie, it’s gripping and doesn’t feel too long.

The cast: Cal McAffrey - Russell Crowe | Stephen Collins - Ben Affleck | Della Frye - Rachel McAdams | Cameron Lynne - Helen Mirren | Anne Collins - Robin Wright Penn | Dominic Foy - Jason Bateman | Rep. George Fergus – Jeff Daniels | Robert Bingham – Michael Berresse | Det. Donald Bell – Harry Lennix

The crew: Director – Kevin Macdonald | Screenplay – Matthew Michael Carnahan, Tony Gilroy, Billy Ray | Producers - Paul Abbott, Tim Bevan, Liza Chasin, Eric Fellner, Andrew Hauptman, Eric Hayes, Debra Hayward, E. Bennett Walsh | Music – Alex Heffes | Cinematogrpahy – Rodrigo Prieto | Studio Canal | Relativity Media | Universal Pictures

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Rated 4/5 on Apr 18 2009
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Tags: Detective/Mistery · Movies · Thrillers/Suspense

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1 response so far ↓

  • 1 ludwig // May 9, 2010 at 8:58 am

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    first off, I did enjoy the movie somewhat, but disagree 180 with your comment re Mirren/Streep. The role was an absolute stereotypical cardboard cutout of the Editor not Owner, who had nothing interesting to say or to figure in the real psychology of the movie except ‘we’ve got to got to press now!!!!’. I was sad to see so great an actress who can command the screen given lines to say which would have been handled just as well by Sarah Palin or someone of her ilk. The movie wanted the pacing and suspense of All The President’s Men but, though I enjoyed it, State of Play PALES to insignificance when compared to that archetype of the politico/journalist/conspiracy movie – of course, IT was based on the truth as we know it. And Rachel McAdams? just put a woman in so there’s that sex-itch thing, she was colorless and what’s the buzz about her all about, anyway – terribly uninteresting. and yeah, Ben Affleck is a HORRIBLE actor – (his brother, Casey, however, is NOT). Crowe’s performance was nothing new – his best is still THE INSIDER. I’d give it 3 out of 6 stars – it’s just popcorn, but popcorn is good.

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