Several movies come out every year with trailers that claim they are great thrillers. Unfortunately, most of the time, the movies are far from great and only mildly entertaining. I've been interested in seeing State of Play since I first saw a trailer. This is one of the few well done thrillers that deserves to be seen.
One night in Washington D.C. a young man is gunned down in a dark alley after attempting to steal a purse. Cal McAffrey, a reporter for the Washington Globe, starts working on the story the next morning. That same morning, Sonia Baker dies when she falls in front of a train in the subway. Sonia has been the lead researcher for congressman Stephen Collins. He has to start the hearing into a private security firm within minutes of hearing the news. Before long, reports are circulating stating that Stephen had been having an affair with Sonia. Unsure of how to deal with the mess he's in, Stephen turns to his old friend Cal.
Cal starts working on the story, looking for something that will take the focus off of Stephen. His editor Cameron is breathing down his neck for a big story while the new owners of the paper are breathing down her neck for stories that will sell papers. Cal decides to work with Della Frye, a young woman who has been writing a blog for the paper even though he doesn't like that type of reporting. The two start investigating and discover things that make Cal believe a conspiracy is going on.
State of Play is based on the six part British television drama of the same name that aired in 2003. I've never seen that version, so I don't know exactly what was changed for the new version. Since the original was six hours and this version is only two hours, I know things had to be condensed or even cut out completely. From the little bit I've read about the original, it has a similar plot even though it was set in England and featured a member of the parliament.
The plot for State of Play is very interesting and it made for an entertaining movie. The plot is somewhat complicated, so people need to pay attention to what is going to keep track of everything that is happening. The murder of the young thief starts the movie and it seems like it is just one of the many crimes that Cal ends up writing about at first. As he investigates, he learns things that prove that the murder is connected to other things going on. When Sonia dies, there are questions since it happened in a busy subway terminal. She is shown standing near the edge of the platform and it isn't clear if she fell, was pushed, or jumped. As the movie progresses, Cal uncovers more things about Sonia that do make things more complicated. The new revelations keep the movie interesting and keep the audience guessing about what is going on. There is also a minor subplot dealing with changes at the newspaper because of the new ownership. The movie moves along at a good pace without feeling rushed or slow. I was never bored with what was going on and I wasn't impatient for it to end.
State of Play is a well done thriller with a decent amount of mystery. The mystery is mostly tied to Sonia's death and exactly what happened. Cal and Della start to uncover more as they investigate, which adds to the mystery. There is also suspense in some scenes. One is set in a mostly deserted parking garage at night and while some aspects of that sequence are predictable, it is also very suspenseful and concludes in a way I didn't expect. There is a good blend of mystery and suspense in the movie that makes it worth watching for people who like good thrillers.
State of Play also takes time to show how being a reporter is different because of the internet and all the blogs. Cal's paper even has an internet division. Even Cameron points out at one point that Della produces more than Cal does. Cameron is being pushed by the new owners to produce stories that will sell papers and it seems that not much important is place on things like accuracy and the truth. Cal is an old school type of reporter who has contacts and sources all around the city and he spends time cultivating his stories. Della is a different type of reporter and Cal does look down on her at first, accusing her of writing things without having all the facts. He does change his mind about her and ends up willingly working with her.
Throughout State of Play, it seems like the new management of the paper prefers the internet reporters to print reporters. Cal and the other print reporters work in cramped cubicles in a crowded, noisy room and they use ancient computers. Cal says at one point that his computer is sixteen years old. It didn't look quite that old, but it was old. Della's work space is only shown once. She works in an office that isn't cramped or overflowing with coworkers. She has an up to date computer to work on, complete with a flat screen monitor. It did look like there was at least one other desk in that room, but it wasn't as cramped as the areas the print reporters had to work from. The movie does sort of suggest that the new owners might be looking to turn the paper into more of a tabloid with their desire to have stories that will sell regardless of the truth. At one point, Cameron has a fit because Cameron and Della didn't print something that they had doubts about and then another paper came out with the story.
The fact that Stephen and Sophia had a more intimate relationship was at least hinted out in the trailers I saw for State of Play. I think at least of the trailers came right out and shared it. Some of the other characters are a bit surprised about the relationship once things come out while others are quick to judge Stephen, who has been married for many years. Not much about the marriage is shared, but it is clear her and Anne have been having some problems. Cal is also friends with Anne. There aren't any actual sex scenes in the movie, though there are a few minor sexual conversations.
Cal has been a reporter for many years and he has established a lot of contacts and sources. He is middle aged and not in the best shape since he eats all sorts of junk food. He is dedicated to his work, though it does seem like he is willing to do just about anything to get a story. Russell Crowe was really good and believable in the part. He was frequently flipping his hair out of his face, which was slightly distracting. Crowe had been growing his hair out for another part. I recently read that he got tired of if and cut it off. The longer hair did manage to work for the character overall even though it wasn't that attractive looking.
Della is a young woman working in the internet division for the newspaper. She doesn't know a lot about the type of reporting that Cal does, but she ends up working with him and learning some things. She is a nice enough character overall, though she does have some attitude at times. Rachel McAdams was good in the part. Cameron is the editor of the paper. It isn't said for sure, but it seems like she has been there for a while and been working with Cal for a long time. She gets frustrated with Cal at times and is being pressured to print stories that will sell. Helen Mirren was great in the part.
Stephen Collins is a congressman from Pennsylvania who has been investigating a private security firm. Stephen is ready to start a hearing when he learns about Sonia's death. He then ends up in the middle of a media frenzy and scandal as more details of his relationship with Sonia come out. Ben Affleck handled the part well. Anne has been married to Stephen for several years. She isn't in as much of the movie, so not as much about her is shared. She's not pleased about the situation and she is all but forced into supporting Stephen because of how it would look if she didn't. Robin Wright Penn did well with what she had to work with.
Sonia is in even less of the movie. She has been working with Stephen for several months, helping with the research for the investigation into the private security firm. She is only briefly shown before her death, so everything that is shared about her comes out later. Since Sonia was barely in the movie, Maria Thayer really didn't have a lot to do. George Fergus is another representative in the congress who has been working with Stephen. Jeff Daniels did well with the few scenes he had. Jason Bateman also turns up in a couple of scenes as someone with a connection to Sonia.
Ben Affleck - Stephen Collins
Jason Bateman - Dominic Foy
Russell Crowe - Cal McAffrey
Jeff Daniels - George Fergus
Rachel McAdams - Della Frye
Helen Mirren - Cameron Lynne
Maria Thayer - Sonia
Kevin Macdonald - Director
State of Play is a very well done thriller that deserves to be seen. Fans of the cast, especially Russell Crowe, should give it a chance.
I saw this movie in the theater and it has been out less than a week. For whatever reason, it is only showing up in the video and DVD section.
Russell Crowe Movie Reviews
American Gangster ~ Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World ~
Read all 11 Reviews
Write a Review