The Film: State of Play.

The Principals: Kevin Macdonald (director). Matthew Michael Carnahan. Tony Gilroy. Billy Ray. Paul Abbot (writers). Russell Crowe. Ben Affleck. Rachel McAdams. Helen Mirren. Jason Bateman. Harry Lennix. Robin Wright Penn. Jeff Daniels (actors).

“Your shoulder smells like knee.”

The Premise: Political intrigue marries with hard reporting and Helen Mirren gets pissed at all of it.

Is it Good:
Good? It’s almost great.

The British miniseries State of Play
is based upon is a classic bit of work, and an awakening to some of the
greater talents working across the pond, many of whom have already
staked their claim in America with mixed results. It is graceful,
elegant, and loaded with depth. It also has the benefit of
three-hundred and fifty minutes to tell its story, something which is
nearly impossible to do on the big screen in thousands of multiplexes.
It’s a classic.

The feature version, pared down and Americanized with big stars and a
glossy sales pitch softens some of the edges, removes some of the
characters, and I’ll be damned if it isn’t really close to being as
effective as the original. Is it a classic? No, but it is an
intelligent, strong, well-acted mainstream motion picture that favors
suspense over action and luckily has more in common with films like All the President’s Men than Enemy of the State. So much so in fact that it features a scene in the Watergate building and a memorable parking deck confrontation.

Sex with Sandahl Bergman left him pretty much as he expected.

begins with a murder, a seemingly minor one of a two-bit thief in
a darkened alley, an act which escalates, involving an unfortunate
witness and eventually resulting in the revelation of a massive
conspiracy where billions of dollars are at stake. The core situation
is different than in the British miniseries, taking the now-overused
oil business plotline and replacing it with something nearly as
important but less covered in mainstream film. That murder is tied to
another, the death of a young woman who seemingly fell in front of a
train. A woman who happens to work for a Congressman (Ben Affleck), the
person in charge of a rather large investigation. The person who
happens to be having affair with the Congressman. It’s just the
beginning of things that have hidden layers in a plot rife with them.
before all is said and done, sex and scandal are only a small part of
an issue that involves the privatization of the military, the role the
media has in big business and politics, and where the bond of
friendship finds its limits.

It’s a really solid movie. Smart. Unafraid to skimp on action (and what action it does have is tacked on). Definitely cut from a better cloth than many of the studio releases calling themselves dramas.

Red Eye, that’s what!”

Is it Worth a Look: Most definitely. It’s the kind of movie we need more of, especially with Lumet fading, and Alan J. Pakula an ex-alive man. Also, Ben Affleck
has improved greatly as an actor since stepping behind the lens.
There’s a new patience to him and a little gray hair and more defined
creases in his face help alleviate the still square-jawed All-American
look. Though he certainly doesn’t feel the same age as Russell Crowe,
age and experience is paying dividends for Mr. Ben Affleck.

Random Anecdotes: The end credits serve as a poetic postmortem on print news journalism as we see the printing process laid before us. Robin Wright Penn has aged well. The same weird energy that fuels Robert Downey Jr. is infused in Jason Bateman, and there are little moments where you see it bubbling. Someone needs to uncork that guy. I love when comatose people get sniped.

Cinematic Soulmates: All the President’s Men. The Parallax View.

“Stop calling me Collins. My name is Matt Murdock and… did that fucker switch nameplates again?”

Buy it here and CHUD gets a cut!

The Tally So Far:

State of Play


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