Monday, June 29, 2009

State of Play

I know I get carried away with saying "it is like a modern day version of...." but I'll be damned if State of Play isn't a modern day version of All The President's Men. State of Play was made for a more mature audience who want a more mature story-line that doesn't feel the need to dumb anything down for those that just can't keep up. To achieve this, Kevin MacDonald (and his bevy of screenwriters that include Tony Gilroy, Billy Ray, Matthew Michael Carahan, and Peter Morgan) have assembled a cast of actors and characters that only someone who prefers to think during their movies could understand the motivations of. State of Play just manages to feel that real and adult-like thanks to the talents of Russell Crowe, Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams, Helen Mirren, Jason Bateman, Robin Wright Penn, Jeff Daniels, Harry Lennix, and Viola Davis. These actors create such a real sensory world consisting mainly of this shadowy conspiracy, that one can't help but become more personally involved in the deception as the investigation continues to unfold, but I'm getting ahead of myself...

Russell Crowe plays Cal McAffrey, a reporter who is still on his old fashioned computer at his Washington DC newspaper job where he is the quiet badass of the newsroom. This isn't one of Crowe's temper-tantrum and screaming roles, but instead McAffrey is scruffy, observant, and so well versed in the crafts of his trade that he becomes the mentor to a new age blogger (played by Rachel McAdams) and explains all sorts of the physical responsibilities and psychological reasoning  that one has when reporting the news. While McAffrey is eager to give out information, his former friend Stephen Collins, a politician, feels the urge to hide it all away. A mistress of Collins is murdered and McAffrey ends up investigating the case leading the two old friends to meet up with each other and rekindle their friendship as well as come to blows as more information is revealed (McAffrey also had an affair with Collins wife, played convincingly by Robin Wright Penn). Supervising all of this is the head editor at the newspaper played by Helen Mirren, who acts like the shepherd of a dying breed, as paper news gives away to the more virtual and popular route of receiving your news on Yahoo or Google. 

The genius and addictive nature of State of Play comes from the numerous layers that are added to the story. As you can see there are already a number of relationships between characters but throw in a loyal assassin or a coked up club owner (Jason Bateman in one of his few dramatic roles) or a Blackwater type group (all with a connection to a shadowy lobbyist played by Jeff Daniels) and you have a mystery that continually grows as the movie naturally moves on. That kind of mystery is frankly, the best kind. The kind that doesn't feel the need to recap at the end of every commercial break.

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