“State of Play,” a blistering thriller set in the world of high-stakes investigative journalism, is a story poised on the brink of extinction. These days as more and more people turn to internet blogs and social networks for insta-news, across the globe major newspapers are simply vanishing. Hence, it is with a tinge of nostalgia that we enjoy watching this drama unfold, knowing it will be obsolete in less than a year as the big newspapers run their own obituaries.
Russell Crowe stars opposite Ben Affleck as two former college roommates. The pair, the former now an investigative journalist, the other a rising congressman, become entangled in a case of seemingly unrelated, brutal murders. Crowe plays Washington D.C. reporter Cal McAffrey, whose street smarts lead him to untangle a mystery of murder and collusion among some of the nation’s most promising political and corporate figures.
Director Kevin Macdonald (“The Last King of Scotland”) has streamlined the six-hour BBC mini-series source material into a taut two-hour thriller. Not only has he excised the element of nepotism between the newspaper chief and the cub reporter, but he also switched genders, to excellent effect.
Helen Mirren’s stunning turn as the paper’s acid-tongued, hard-bitten editor-in-chief recalls her equally exemplary work in the “Prime Suspect” TV series, while Rachel McAdams as the blogger-turned-reporter gives a performance where every gesture and intonation hits a perfect note. Crowe turns in a spookily authentic performance as the shabby and curmudgeonly journo, while Affleck, who easily portrays the crisp and handsome rising political star, only falters when his facade crumbles and he’s required to plumb some emotional depths.
Macdonald has also assembled a stellar supporting cast, including Robin Wright Penn as Affleck’s beleaguered wife and Jason Bateman as a key source, and where even the bit-part mortician – played by Viola Davis – is an Oscar nominee.
State of Play is not to be missed.
Studio/Official Site: http://www.stateofplaymovie.net/
[Pauline Adamek is a Hollywood-based film, theater, and food critic who files for “FilmInk Australia,” “LA Daily News,” “Sun Community Newspapers,” as well as various websites under the “nom du net” Max Million.]