State of Play

Dir: Kevin Macdonald
Star: Russell Crowe, Rachel McAdams, Ben Affleck, Helen Mirren

Hard-bitten, old-school Washington journalist Cal McAffrey (Crowe) is investigating a shooting, but is distracted by the apparent suicide of Sonia Baker, an intern working for his former room-mate Stephen Collins (Affleck). Collins is now a Congressman chairing an inquiry into the privatization of the military, which has benefited defence contractor PointCorp to the tune of billions of dollars. It turns out Collins was having an affair with Baker, which could derail the investigation - and it also turns out the victim of the shooting Cal is investigating, a low-life criminal, had called Baker's cellphone shortly before his death. Cal teams up with hotshot blogger Della Frye (McAdams), to investigate what's going on. Is it a conspiracy to ensure PointCorp's plans to take over domestic security continue? If so, how high does the plot go? If not, what is going on?

Based on a BBC series, it's anchored by Crowe, who is enjoyably grumpy, and initially reluctant to work with an online writer, who he regards as not being a "real journalist." [One wonders how it might have been different with Brad Pitt, as originally cast, in the lead] The script teases out the information at a nice pace, though I was somewhat disappointed with the final twist (it could be accused of being a cheat to a certain extent, or at least a cop-out); it's also refreshing that the makers didn't throw Della and Cal into bed, or even give them a romantic relationship. There probably wasn't time, this being condensed of necessity into two hours, rather than the six of the original. I enjoyed Mirren's turn as the newspaper owner, in her annual "mortgage payment" Hollywood blockbuster - certainly much better than National Treasure 2. Crowe seems to have a good eye for a script; since he became a start, I can't think of much I've seen him in that I haven't enjoyed (except 3:10 to Yuma), and this is no exception to that general rule.

[September 2010]

Capitol thrill
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