State of Play
1 hour, 57 minutes
Veteran Washington Globe reporter Cal McAffrey (Russell Crowe, The Insider) is dragging his feet on a drug-related homicide story when news of the suicide of Representative Stephen Collins's aide comes over the wire. Collins (Ben Affleck, Hollywoodland) and McAffrey are old college roommates, which cub reporter Della Frye (Rachel McAdams, Married Life) tries to exploit for her latest blog post. When McAffrey uncovers a link between his homicide and the aide's death, he and Frye begin investigating the larger corporate conspiracy surrounding the prominent Congressman.
Since Michael Clayton, it seems you can't throw a rock at a thriller without hitting a Tony Gilroy writing credit. Gilroy teams with Matthew Michael Carnahan (Lions for Lambs) and Billy Ray (Breach) to flush out the political conspiracy pedigree for this adaptation of Paul Abbott's British television series. Helmed by Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland), it's safe to say that State of Play isn't deficient in story execution. The only thing that kept my attention from being completely rapt by this nail biter is its cast.
I don't mean that in a bad way...mostly. In the plus category, State is chock full of 'that guy' goodness. Playing the homicide detective is Harry Lennix (Ray). Josh Mostel (Big Daddy), Michael Weston (Garden State) and Barry Shabaka Henley (Miami Vice) roam the Globe's bullpen. Brief appearances by Jeff Daniels (Traitor) and Helen Mirren (The Queen) are exceptional, but the scene stealer is Jason Bateman (Smokin' Aces). Bateman's making a career of playing characters that are sleazy or sophisticated, or in this case, both.
My main problem with State is the casting of Affleck. To his favor, he gives a solid performance and is believable as the young, hot shit on the Hill. My issue is that he, wife Anne (Robin Wright Penn (Moll Flanders), and McAffrey are supposedly old college buds. Really!? Last I checked, Crowe and Penn have nearly a decade on Affleck. Minute after minute, my mind scrambled for various scenarios that would make this timeline possible, but given the respective histories of the characters, nothing really fit. I'm glad Affleck is giving legitimacy another go, but if he has to play older at least give him some crow's feet or grey at the temples.
There's a lot of talk of dirty deeds done, but the only thing caught on film are a couple of dark alley shootings. Even the Congressman's sordid affair is given lip service when some sexy flashbacks of Affleck and Maria Thayer (Accepted) engaging in inappropriate acts would have been saucy. The nastiest State of Play gets is when McAffrey gets a boo-boo on his hand while being chased by a story.
The Money Shot
An underlying theme in State of Play is its obvious critique of the waning influence of reporting to revenue in the newspaper industry. Newspapers are heading the way of the buffalo, overrun by the callous bloggers gobbling up information without facts. Without this venerable animal, truth and justice could never be served, nor this tightly packed thriller solved.
Thursday, April 30, 2009
State of Play