Movie Review: State of Play

Based on the very intelligent and thought-provoking BBC TV mini-series, State of Play stars Russell Crowe as Cal McAffrey, an enigmatic newspaper reporter who gets involved in the story of his career.

The story begins when a congressional aid is struck by an on-coming train in a Washington DC subway. It turns out the aid was also the mistress of a very important congressman (Ben Affleck) who is trying to stop the privatization of the military.

Questions start to come up: did the aid commit suicide? Was she murdered? How does this all link back to congressman?

Along for the ride with Crowe and Affleck are an assortment of actors that really surprised me.

You have Helen Mirren, Rachel McAdams, Robin Wright Penn, Jason Bateman, Jeff Daniels, This film really had an impressive cast but it did nothing at the box office.

(Mental note: keeping screaming at studios that big stars don’t guarantee big box office)

This political thriller could have been as classic as All the President’s Men or even the very underrated The Paper. This had all the ingredients to do it.

Not only did you have pedigree in front of the camera but behind you had Last King of Scotland director Kevin MacDonald and it was written by screenwriting heavyweights like Tony Gilroy, Matthew Michael Carnahan and Billy Ray. Well something must have happened because the film is nowhere near as good as it should be.

Brad Pitt was originally tapped to headline this film but walked away when he was unhappy with the script. When you have three “script doctors” working on an adaptation well something is going to get lost in the translation and Pitt must have smelled a flop. Well he called it.

Crowe does his own thing in this film and I am not sure if he is supposed to be as rebellious as he is depicted. Crowe’s character’s connection to Affleck and Affleck’s wife (Penn) is matter-of-factly and rudimentary that it is never questioned. It also comes off as really fake. I could for a minute believe that Affleck and Crowe were old college roommates or close friends. There is almost a ten year age gap between them.  So that was distracting.

I also never bought the fact that Crowe’s character could compartmentalize his feelings in this case, if Affleck was such a close friend. The character is a packrat, a mess and always disorganized.

I did really like McAdams as Crowe’s sort-of protege. I was nice to see her in something other than a romantic role. She brought a spunk to the film that needed to be more explored. What could have been interesting is if the whole film would have been told from McAdams perspective instead of Crowe’s. That way so many of the facts would have had to be discovered instead of the matter-of-fact approach that Crowe takes especially with his connection to Affleck and Penn.’

If you put away what it should be with all the talent involved, State of Play is actually an interesting movie where the stars are like chess pieces in this giant conspiracy. But it is hard to ignore what might have been.

3 out of 5

So Says the Soothsayer

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