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PopEntertainment.com > Reviews > Movie Reviews > State of Play

MOVIE REVIEWS

STATE OF PLAY (2009)

Starring Russell Crowe, Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams, Helen Mirren, Robin Wright Penn, Jason Bateman, Jeffrey Daniels, Michael Berresse, Harry Lennix, Josh Mostel, Michael Weston, David Harbour, Sarah Lord, Viola Davis, Wendy Makkena, Rob Benedict, Katy Mixon, Bonita Friedericy, Lou Dobbs and Chris Matthews.

Screenplay by Matthew Michael Carnahan, Tony Gilroy, and Billy Ray.

Directed by Kevin Macdonald.

Distributed by Universal Pictures.  127 minutes.  Rated PG-13.

State of Play

Word is that intelligent, complicated movies for adults are an endangered species in Hollywood.

Apparently the makers of State of Play have not gotten the memo.

It takes a certain amount of chutzpah to remake the complex and layered 2003 British mini-series of the same name and transplant it into modern Washington DC as a two-hour crowd-pleasing suspense movie - and while the translation is not perfect, State of Play is still one of the better recent political dramas.

Even more importantly than the political ramifications, State of Play is a love letter to the quickly disappearing newspaper industry.  The film shows a dogged old school reporter - always verifying his stories and working the streets to get the facts - who has to share a story with a young internet blogger.  While her stories are more immediate, we are quickly shown that he can easily school her on the basics of journalism.

Coming from the other side we are only available online I have to say that State of Play is right on target.  While I think that there can be (and often is) a little more care taken to writing online and blogs than shown here, still it is refreshing to see the newspaper - that disappearing but vitally needed art form - shown as a final bastion of truth.  In a world full of Perez Hiltons and Matt Drudges, perhaps the world needs to slow down and wait for a little verification and substance in their news.

Okay, off my soap box.  Back to the movie.

State of Play is the story of Cal McAffrey (Russell Crowe) - an old-school newspaper reporter who drives an old junker, lives in a crappy apartment and doesn't take good care of himself.  However, the one thing he is passionate about is his job, in which he befriends authority figures, turns over every stone and uses every trick in the journalists' book to get his stories.

However, he is beginning to feel left behind.  His newspaper (the fictional Washington Globe) has been bought up by a communications conglomerate who is considering closing it down.  His editor (Helen Mirren) is trying to skirt the financial  bottom line without sacrificing too much of journalistic integrity. 

McAffrey finds himself in the middle of Washington scandal.  A young Capitol Hill staffer is murdered.  It turns out that she worked for Rep. Stephen Collins (Ben Affleck), McAffrey's old college roommate.  (Sorry, Crowe is supposed to be Affleck's college roommate?  The reporter looks at least a decade older than the politician.)  Then it turns out that the aide was having an affair with Collins - and was spying on him for a shadowy international corporation. 

This leads to a lot of suspicion that the Congressman was behind the murder - or was he being framed?  (He has a retro-Philadelphia Phillies banner in his office, how could he possibly be bad?)  If he was, who could have been behind the killing?  His long-suffering wife  (Robin Wright Penn)?  A mysterious vet?  A drug-addicted lawyer (Jason Bateman)?  Someone else?  And what does it all have to do with the shooting of a Georgetown pizza delivery guy?

This leads to a twisty-turny old-fashioned mystery - though similarities to Halliburton, Blackwater and even the Chandra Levy case are undoubtedly completely intentional.

State of Play will keep you guessing right to the very end.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright 2009 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: April 18, 2009.

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Copyright 2009   PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: April 18, 2009.

 

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