When the murders of two men – one because his route to deliver a pizza made him a witness – and the death of a congressman’s assistant turn out to be linked, the congressman’s affair with the dead woman comes to light. This puts his investigation into PrivateCorp, providers of mercenary aid in the War on Terror at risk.
Congressman Stephen Collins’ [Ben Affleck] affair with Sonya Baker [Maria Thayer] is even more ways than just the cheating husband aspect – it pulls his former college roommate, and veteran investigative reporter for the Washington Globe, Cal McAffrey [Russell Crowe] into the mix – and McAffrey will do just about anything for a story. Circumstances dictate that McAffrey is teamed up with Globe political blogger Della Frye [Rachel McAdams] – despite his low regard for blogs in general.
As McAffrey and Frye work the story, they are constantly badgered by their editor-in-chief, Cameron Lynne [the always impressive Helen Mirren]. The paper has new owners and they want to sell papers more than they want quality journalism.
State of Play is adapted from a six-hour British series and, as such, is probably better than it has any right to be. It’s been awhile since I saw the BBC mini-series, so I couldn’t tell you what was pruned for the theatrical film, but even so, it feels like there’s enough material here for at least two movies. There’s so much information in every frame that it’s virtually impossible for anyone [short of Bruce Wayne or Clark Kent] to pick up on some of the most important clues.
For a script that has undergone three rewrites [including a pass by Duplicity’s Tony Gilroy], State of Play really has a singular voice. Chalk that up to director Kevin MacDonald, who propels the film and is very good at creating suspense [a sequence where McAffrey is stalked in an apartment building underground parking lot is particularly well executed]. Somehow MacDonald manages to keep all the various arcs straight and, except for feeling a bit overstuffed, it is a solid, well-crafted thriller. It might even provoke some debate on the necessity for maintaining quality journalism – both in the print and online media.
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