STATE OF PLAY: Another Gem To Crowe About
STATE OF PLAY (mystery drama)
Cast: Russell Crowe, Rachel McAdams, Ben Affleck, Jason Bateman, Robin Wright Penn, Helen Mirren and Jeff Daniels
Director: Kevin Macdonald
Time: 118 mins
Rating: * * * (out of 4)
PREAMBLE: This movie is adapted from a 2003 British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) mini-series which was set in London. For this remake, screenwriters Matthew Michael Carnahan, Tony Gilroy and Billy Ray have not only set the drama in Washington DC, they have also updated the State Of Play with the current state of newspapers in the 21st Century.
Their prognosis is dismal: With the blogs on the Internet, the days of the printed press are numbered, if you don't already know that.
THE SKINNY: The movie opens with two seemingly unconnected deaths: A drug-addict snatch thief is shot dead in an alley; and the chief researcher (Maria Thayer as Sonia Baker) of a Congressman is mysteriously killed in a subway accident. When it is discovered that the Congressman is Stephen Collins (Ben Affleck), who is chairman of a committee reviewing a proposal to 'outsource' homeland security, the media dig deeper and learn that he is having an affair with Sonia.
Enter Cal McAffrey (Russell Crowe), a reporter at the Washington Globe. McAffrey, who happens to be a college buddy of Collins and his wife Anne (Robin Wright), is investigating the homicide of the snatch thief when clues lead him to believe that the two cases are connected. Backed by his editor, Cameron Lynne (Helen Mirren), and partnered with blogger Della Frye (Rachel McAdams), Cal believes that he has uncovered a massive corporate conspiracy perpetrated by a firm called Pointcorp to get the Government contract. As expected, Cal and Della find their lives at risk as they probe deeper and deeper into the story...
HITS & MISSES: It is evident that director Kevin Macdonald (of The Last King Of Scotland fame) has done a good job of condensing the six-hour TV series into a two-hour feature - without losing the main plot ingredients. Macdonald plunges us right into the 'conspiracy' and keeps us interested and rivetted by unravelling bits of juicy info throughout the first two acts. Like, is Cal compromising his professional integrity by discussing the story with Collins and his wife?
Like, when Cal pleads for the story to be held back, is he jeopardising his paper? One thing is clear: the big name cast is first rate and they give the movie the credibility and the zest it needs. Journalists in the audience would understand when Mirren, as the pressured editor, proclaims: “The real story is the sinking of this newspaper! The new owners are interested in sales, not discretion!”
Crowe is cool and comfortable as the scruffy reporter while McAdams is cute and gutsy as his foil. They have chemistry too. Jason Bateman has a minor role as a sleazy middle-man.
THE LOWDOWN: Just the treat for fans of conspiracy theories.
Check out the BBC mini-series trailer: