Exciting and complex thriller about political scandal and investigative journalism.
Kevin Macdonald’s political thriller State of Play (2009) boasts a massive cast of A list stars, who deliver gripping dramatic performances in this intricate narrative of deception and corruption. Macdonald’s direction makes sense out of a convoluted political plot with focused direction, gripping performances, and a wonderful series of twists. The script is clever, but needlessly complicated for such a cliche story. It’s in Macdonald’s smooth execution that makes all 127 minutes of State of Play fly by with ease. Justine Wright’s editing keeps things snappy and involving as she never lingers too long on a shot.
State of Play is nearly forgotten as a popular political thriller, thanks to superior films in the genre like All the President’s Men, 3 Days of the Condor, JFK, Zodiac, and Spotlight remaining in the minds of the moviegoer more distinctly. However, State of Play is thoroughly entertaining and continues to be a fun piece about politicians soiled by corporate interests and journalists obsessed with their story and the virtues of truth telling.
Russell Crowe is riveting as a hard edge journalist doing research for the biggest story of his career that he has too many close connections in association. State of Play is a neat mid career move from Crowe who had dazzled audiences previously with L.A.Confidential, Gladiator, A Beautiful Mind, and Master and Commander. State of Play as well as The Next Three Days let Crowe have fun with some thrillers while he was gaining weight instead of resting on his laurels. I’m glad he had a nice comeback with The Nice Guys and Boy Erased. As for State of Play his romantic chemistry with Robin Wright is nice and his comradery with Rachel McAdams is very fun. Crowe gives serious gravitas to his words on the value of truth and integrity in journalism. You want his character to succeed for all his hard work and earnest motivations. Crowe gets several long passages of dialogue that he delivers with a convincing interest.
Rachel McAdams is wonderful in State of Play. It’s a similar role that she would return to in Spotlight, but McAdams is so lively here. She uses playful looks from her hypnotic eyes and sly body language to convey a fun character. McAdams is believable as a blogger trying to become a more serious journalist. She’s witty and gives Crowe as good as she gets in insults and wry remarks. I must mention that the costume designer, Jacqueline West, Lisa Lovaas, Mara Majorowicz, and Amanda Sroka, really outdo themselves for State of Play did a great job of creating several cute outfits for McAdams. They’re as memorable as her acting.
Rodrigo Prieto’s cinematography is stunning in every close up shot and medium shot throughout State of Play. My problem was more with the annoying shaky camera work during the chase sequences that are just hard to follow. Alex Heffes’ score is exciting and upbeat to ensure the audience is awake and engaged throughout State of Play.
Ben Affleck is surprisingly good and realistic as a young congressman awash in scandal and intrigue. He plays the rude arrogant jerk that cheats on his spouse well. Helen Mirren is entertaining as the newspaper head. Robin Wright is rather affecting and sincere, especially opposite Crowe. Jason Bateman has a hilarious cameo. Jeff Daniels is fairly convincing as a conniving congressman. Michael Berresse is cold and haunting as a contract killer. Would you believe that Viola Davis and David Harbour both have neat cameos in intriguing supporting actress? Well they do, and they really feel like real people in this gritty investigation.
In all, State of Play is interesting and thoughtful, but mostly to do with our possible fall for temptation. Maybe check it out if you have not seen it yet or do not remember it anymore.