State of Play: Movie Review
Cast: Russell Crowe, Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams, Robin
Wright Penn, Jeff Daniels, Jason Bateman, Helen Mirren.
Director: Kevin Macdonald
State of Play is based on the critically acclaimed BBC series of the
It's no doubt an intimidating task adapting a much loved British drama into a
feature length American film.
What sacrifices should be made reducing a six-episode series into a feature
length film? Can blockbuster actors do justice to much loved roles?
It's worth pointing out here that I haven't seen the
television series in its entirety; though I was familiar with the conclusion
before seeing the film. This hasn't changed my opinion in the slightest: this
movie is quite brilliant.
Collins (Affleck) is a rising star in his political party. Responsible for
chairing a committee exploring US defence spending commitments, Collins' career
is derailed when his research assistant - and mistress - is killed.
Journalist Cal McAffrey (Crowe) is sent to investigate
the accident, along with the murder of a junkie on Washington's mean streets.
McAffrey treads the fine line between maintaining his long-standing friendship
with Collins while remaining committed to the demands of his editor Cameron
As McAffrey and hot shot reporter Della
Frye (McAdams) discover the connection between the murders, the two uncover a
web of corporate deceit so intricate it becomes to differentiate the good from
the bad and the trustworthy from the corrupt.
developing the film, the producers struck a road block. After signing on to play
Cal McAffrey, Brad Pitt left the production - a decision director Kevin
Macdonald approved wholeheartedly. According to recent interviews Pitt requested
that McAffrey's wardrobe include cashmere suits. Mcdonald disagreed and Russell
Crowe took the role.
As the fleshy, flawed
McAffrey, Crowe manages to avoid the trappings of playing the classic
antihero. Crowe's McAffrey is both hack and friend, constantly torn between
journalistic integrity and a desire to protect his old mate from the very
vultures he works with.
Crowe has managed to
transcend the earnest masculinity that has dominated his previous roles. While
devouring twinkies and slugging whiskey from cracked mugs - wearing a crumpled
old suit - Crowe manages to create a real character who in spite of obvious
flaws is still dedicated to justice.
State of Play
relies heavily on the interplay between its main players and this isn't Crowe's
movie alone. Ben Affleck is particularly good as the guarded Collins, while
Rachel McAdams, Robin Wright Penn and Helen Mirren are as consistent as usual.
Jason Bateman deserves a mention for his a nicely ironic performance as a
hapless PR schmuck.
State of Play's characters are
intrinsically conflicted, each determined to protect their own backs and advance
their careers while attempting to reveal - or conceal - the truth.
Who has control? Who is manipulating whom? It's a credit to these actors that
they manage to make a bunch of scoundrels so likeable.
Political thrillers don't get better than this.