“STATE OF PLAY” (Russell Crowe, Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams & Helen Mirren)
I have been writing movie reviews for a couple of years now & I’ve found the better the movie, the less entertaining the review – This is going to be one of those bland reviews because ‘State Of Play’ is a very good film. One of those that I really can’t find anything wrong with - Even with Ben Affleck & Jason Bateman in the cast! It is a film in which you have to pay more than a minimal amount of attention in order to follow the plot, but it doesn’t get so overwrought in plot twists & character additions that you lose track even if you’ve been diligent with your focus.
Russell Crowe plays veteran newspaper reporter Cal McAffrey; he is matched with a young ‘blogging’ reporter (Rachel McAdams) when they are both assigned to cover the apparent suicide of a Congressman’s aide. The Congressman, Stephen Collins (Affleck) is Cal’s old college roommate, so it is hoped that Cal can get the inside scoop. One little snag in that plan in that Cal had an affair with the Congressman’s wife (Robin Wright Penn)
By bribing cops with coffee (& I’m sure a donut or two had to be thrown in off-screen) Cal comes into incriminating photos proving that Congressman Collins was having an affair with the deceased aide. There are several impressive bit roles in ‘SOP’; in fact, everyone is at the top of their game here so credit has to be given to director Kevin Macdonald (Who also made the great ‘Last King Of Scotland’)
Affleck actually shines when questioning a sleazy businessman during a congressional hearing, & Jason Bateman, also playing a sleazy character, delivers his best acting performance ever. Jeff Daniels has evolved into a 'bit part' specialist & has become very adept at adding a nice touch to each role.
For a great deal of the film I wondered why Helen Mirren agreed to play the part of McAffrey’s boss, since she had very little to do other than utter the stock line “I’ve got a newspaper to run!” They could have simply inserted scenes of Perry White from the old ‘Superman’ TV series (Complete with ‘Great Caesar’s ghost!’) but it all became clear as to why they needed Helen in that role with her ‘wanker’ line. In a film full of snappy, witty lines, this was by far the most humorous.
And I also wondered what older actor had to drop out at the last minute leading to Affleck being cast in the role of Collins since he looks a little too young to have been Crowe’s college chum & Robin Wright Penn’s husband. But as the clues unravel & twist & turn, it is Crowe that keeps everything glued together. Like my favorite actor, Sean Penn, Crowe may be a bit of a jerk in real life, but there’s no denying the fact that the man is one hell of a good actor. In the hands of someone less talented this film could have easily become bogged down.
Other than a little too long non-chase scene in a parking garage, “State Of Play” moves along at a nice clip & actually takes the time to explain to the viewer what is going on & they don’t pull any surprise endings that don’t make sense, just for the sake of making people say “Well, I never saw THAT coming!”
Should this film & it's actors be remembered at Oscar time? Probably not. But for a late April release, it is VERY high quality.