Reel Shorts | State of Play

17 04 2009

Much like a pot simmering on low heat to a raging boil, director Kevin Macdonald has adapted the British hit, “State of Play” and created a blistering hot thriller largely built around the “ultra -maximus” talents of Aussie, Russell Crowe.

Based on the hit 2003 film of the same title, Macdonald shifts the locale and from the gritty London streets to the Nation’s Capital for the best political thriller since 1976’s landmark, “All the President’s Men.” When a mysterious mugger and passerby are gunned down in a Georgetown alley, Washington Globe reporter Cal McAffrey (Crowe) begins a routine investigation that increasingly grows stranger and more complex when the aide of a rising U.S. Congressman Stephen Collins (Ben Affleck) commits suicide the following day.

McAffrey is veteran hotshot old-school working by his hunch highly decorated reporter who prides himself in staying one step ahead of his caustic and ruthless editor, Cameron (Helen Mirren) who sticks him with a green young blogger, Della (Rachel McAdams) initially much to his chagrin who helps him unravel a complicated mystery.

Complicating matters for McAffrey is his friendship with his old college roommate Collins and a secret relationship with his current wife, Anne (Robin Wright-Penn). Trying to walk a tightrope between trying to support his friend and following the story, McAffrey frustrates his young partner by blurring the lines adding additional levels of stress to an already tense story.

Congressman Collins is holding hearing to dissolve the influence of a powerful Blackwater-type military operation, PointCorp. It appears that Collins has created dangerous enemies that would like to silence him. Much like their journalistic forefathers Woodard and Bernstein, McAffrey and Della continue to burrow for the truth as a mysterious man keeps eliminating all the loose ends that could help solve the case.

Written by the trio of Matthew Michael Carnahan, Tony Gilroy and Billy Ray, the screenwriter’s use of the Nation’s Capital adds to the intrigue of the story. In the most powerful city in the world the scribes almost make it strong supporting player in the story as the reporters jet from one city spot to another providing the best portrait of Washington, DC on film in a very long time.

The film incorporates familiar elements from the Bush White House into the tale including a corrupt company attempting to “restructure domestic terrorism” while participating in the “Muslim terror gold rush.” It also highlights our voyeuristic tendencies that display humanities need to do anything for their “15 minutes of fame.” But where the filmmakers really succeed is slowly and patiently building the tension and suspense to you almost feel like it will envelop you in its deceptive game.

While the film features some elements that may be familiar, Macdonald masterfully incorporates them to expand his story instead of limiting it. And just as you think you have a handle on the story, the rug is pulled from you exposing to further plot twists that we won’t divulge.

As history has demonstrated, adapting previous work is purely a crapshoot. For every successful adaptation there are tons of losers littering the cinematic graveyard. But there’s nothing like the combination of a cracker jack tight script, deft and sure direction coupled with a cast of truly talented actors. Even Jason Bateman shines in a brief but hilarious role as a swarmy Hollywood P.R. type. With several Oscar-winning performers in Mirren, Crowe and Affleck, the “State of Play” is strong and pure political theater of the highest level – something that even “the President’s Men” would appreciate!

Grade: A-




One response

17 04 2009
BJ Washington

I would love to see this movie.

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