Friday, April 24, 2009

Movie Review: State of Play

Does the new Russell Crowe/Ben Affleck movie State of Play have all the components to make for a top-notch political thriller? Allow me to take an inventory. Mystery? Check. Built in suspense? Check. Sex scandal? Check. A-list actors portraying characters hell-bent on finding the truth and intertwined in all the above mentioned mystery and suspense? Check and check. And in the end you do have a movie that serves up a good plot dish, even if one feels that there's that one missing ingredient that could have made it great. State of Play is director Kevin Macdonald's (Last King Of Scotland) Americanized movie version of the 2003 six hour BBC TV miniseries that features a veteran Washington D.C. newspaper journalist Cal McAffery (Crowe) trying to solve the mysterious death of a young political aid who was working with U.S. Congressman Stephen Collins (Affleck) to uncover the possible corruption of a defense contractor named PointCorp.
As it is, McAffrey and Collins have a history of not only being old college roommates but McAffery having had a past affair with his good buddy's wife Anne (Robin Wright Penn). To
further complicate matters, McAffrey is pressured by his no-nonsense editor (Helen Mirren) to get the next big story on the front page ASAP and as such is paired up with a fresh-off-the-blogging-press journalist Della Frye (Rachel McAdams) to help him achieve this deadline. While in pursuit of their big story, McAffrey and Frye discover people and situations that seemingly don't have a link to one another at first but when carefully examined begin to shine a light on one sinister dealing after another that are all in connection to the bigger picture.

Admittedly, State of Play is a very good movie but never truly achieves the edge-of-your-seat suspense one is hoping to get. While a certain level of suspension of disbelief must be given when movie viewing, it seems one has to grant slightly more than the usual amount when watching State of Play. Starting from Crowe and Affleck having ever been college roommates to believing a seasoned reporter and his ingénue secretly videotaping their interrogation of a sleazy publicist. But the amazing cast of this film gives such strong performances, it is very easy to buy into far-fetched plot mixtures. Coincidentally, I have to acknowledge the excellent scene stealing turn of the smarmy PR played brilliantly by Jason Bateman. He, along with Jeff Daniels in his role as a God-fearing yet corrupt legislator, holds his own in this group of power playing actors. And together they all provide enough intrigue for a somewhat surprise ending to a film that could otherwise have fallen flat on its cinematic face.

Overall, State of Play may not deliver the one-two punch it should, but it definitely holds a strong place in the ethos of Hollywood political thrillers.

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