State of Play

A Review by Jason L. King

Starring: Ben Affleck, Russell Crowe, Rachel McAdams
Directed by: Kevin MacDonald
Rated: PG-13 for some violence, language including sexual references, and brief drug content.
Movie Released: 2009

Final Grade:

Political thrillers come and go in the movie world, it seems like there is always one slipping through under the radar in the box office. These dime a dozen thrillers filled with corrupt politicians and scandalous affairs are meant to strike a chord with audiences, however many times (especially as of late) they just become low grossing flicks that while may be a great film, few actually go to see.

State of Play, starring Russell Crowe, Rachel McAdams and Ben Affleck is just such a political thriller. It didn’t quite find its niche in the box office and now out on DVD, it is trying again to get customers to pick it up for their next movie night. But is this scandal charged political thriller worth watching?

Based on a BBC Mini-series of the same title, the film version adapts the UK series to the big screen and places it in an American setting. (I guess corrupt politicians can be anywhere in the world, huh?) The story follows a ambitious young politician as he tries to bring down a billion dollar. politician backed, black ops soldier for hire strike force. But when his bold attempts get his name drug through the mud and his secretary (whom he is having an affair with) winds up dead he turns to his old college roommate who just happens to be a reporter for one of the largest newspapers in the country.

As far as films go State of Play is not a bad flick, it’s just not a great one either. State of Play is your run of the mill political thriller. It tries to wow you with 2 hours of twists and turns but they seem overly predictable to a viewer who has seen a few too many movies in this genre. While I have not seen the BBC mini-series, the film version of State of Play did actually spark an interest in watching it. Somehow, I think that if the plot was drug out a bit more, there was some more character development and the “shocking” discoveries were spaced a bit more, it might flow better. None the less, they tried to pack a lot into the film, and did a good job of taking a lot of content and putting into a single serving, 2 hour dose of action.

What I enjoyed most about this film was the paring of Russell Crowe and Rachel McAdams. Crowe plays a cranky old journalist, used to the old, gritty, beat pounding way of scrounging up a story. In contrast, his new partner, played by Rachel McAdams follows more of a new age journalism path, wanting to focus on digging into the blogosphere and the internet to find her sources. The two actors played off each other very well, and I really enjoyed the times when they were on screen. On the contrary, Ben Affleck also spent a fair share of time on screen. Now, I am not a Ben Affleck hater by any means, in fact because of whom I married, I am forever doomed to watch every film Ben Affleck has ever starred in (including Gigli, The 3rd Wheel, Man About Town, and Daddy and Them). Affleck actually holds his own and does a very good job in the role as the ambitious young politician. However, I had a very hard time believing that he and Russell Crowe were ever the same age to be college roommates. There really seemed to be an age gap there, that I just couldn’t quite get over.

One of the things I really struggled with as well was the way the film was shot. The film felt like it was made in a different era. The film had a 90’s thriller film feel. The cinematography felt like something you would see in a 90’s John Grisham novel movie adaptation. From a cinematic standpoint it actually very much reminded me of a lesser know Al Pacino and John Cusack film called City Hall. This cinematic choice actually worked on many levels but failed on some others. On one side of the coin, the film knows what it is, a political thriller and tries to match itself accordingly to others of its type that were popular in the 90s. On the flip side, the film is dealing with many of the same issues that are being debated in Washington today, and because I felt it was trying to hit close to home, making it feel a decade older in looks actually worked against its goal.

In the end, State of Play is your very typical, forgettable political thriller. There are always other ways to spend your movie night, but State of Play certainly isn’t a terrible way of spending your night either.

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