State of Play is directed by Kevin Macdonald and is the big screen adaption of the 2003 BBC series of the same name. The film starts of with a string of murders, one of them involving the aide of a powerful D.C congressman; Stephen Collins (Ben Affleck). Journalist Cal McAffrey (Russell Crowe), an old friend of the congressman, decides to investigate these murdesr alongside this colleague Della Frye (Rachel McAdams) only to discover disturbing information involving the nation’s most promising corporate and political figures.
First of all, let’s talk about the cast. I haven’t seen such a great ensemble cast for an independent, stand alone film since Martin Scorsese’s The Departed. Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams, Russell Crowe, Helen Mirren, Robin Wright and Jason Bateman all feature State of Play. All of these actors delivered good performances and this is inspite of their limited screen time. I particularly liked the dynamic between Crowe’s and McAdam’s characters. Both of them are journalists but they are different kinds of journalists. Cal McAffrey (Russell Crowe) plays the more “traditional” journalist who believes in honest journalism and print media. Whereas Della Frye (Rachel McAdams) is more of the “blogger” type and is heavily driven by controversy and gossip.
At the heart of State of Play is also a political scandal, which overlaps with some real world issues such as the use of private military contractors. I think this movie was appropriate for its time because these were the sort of stories that filled up the news. I also appreciated that State of Play was told in a sort of journalistic manner: the majority of the events occur around Russell Crowe’s character so it was interesting to see how he as a journalist deciphered what was going around him in order to piece together a plausible story. It was sort of like watching a puzzle being slowly assembled. His character also faced an interesting ethical dilemma where he was forced to choose between his friend Stephen Collins or the story that he had. Would he risk his friendship for a front page editorial?
There’s nothing too much wrong with this movie to be honest. I can say though that this film has a lot of “moving pieces”, so watching it was really a commitment. I had to pay close attention to everything that was going on because I knew that if I didn’t, my understanding of the story would quickly evaporate. Another observation that I made about State of Play is the number of twists in the story. Without going into spoiler territory, let me just say that there were too many of them. The writers totally abused the plot to hammer in as many plot twists as they could possibly can. So, as a result this saturated the overall suspense level.
Overall, State of Play is an acceptable political drama that is told from a journalistic perspective involving some important real world issues such as corruption at the highest levels of government and the use of private military contractors in foreign territory. This film is certainly not devoid of acting talent given its phenomenal ensemble cast but I did take issue with the extraordinary number of twists that this movie had, which seemed excessive and quite unnecessary. In short, State of Play was good but it didn’t blow my socks off.