State of Play (2009) starring Russell Crowe, Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams, Helen Mirren, Robin Wright, Jason Bateman, Jeff Daniels, Michael Berresse directed by Kevin Macdonald Movie Review

State of Play (2009)   4/54/54/54/54/5

Russell Crowe as Cal McAffrey in State of Play (2009)


Let me tell you something, if you haven't watched "State of Play" yet when you do watch it you will want to watch it again, not because it is something new or different but because it is well made. Here we have a movie which is packed with story and character, hurtles along over the space of a day or two and exudes confidence and energy all of which sucks you into every moment of the movie, captivated by the twisting story unfolding before your eyes. Okay I should explain that "State of Play" is a big screen adaptation and rewrite of a 5 part TV series shown on the BBC but rather than just being a 5 part series crammed into 2 hours it is an exciting thriller, the likes of which don't come around that often.

Now there is a lot going on in "State of Play", so much that I am still a little speechless about how much is crammed into the space of 127 minutes. But to give you an oversight, the death of a researcher working on a committee headed by Stephen Collins (Ben Affleck - He's Just Not That Into You) opens a can of worms, there is an affair, there is a linked death, there is the senator's friendship to reporter Cal McAffrey (Russell Crowe - American Gangster), there is a battle between old style journalism and modern blogging all of which combines to create a multi layered intriguing, twisting storyline. And it is a storyline which commands your attention because there is a constant drip drip drip of information, clues, subtle words which are crucial to how things pan out. But don't worry because it isn't hard work following the story, it's relatively easy and it is exciting as well making you want to catch every second.

Helen Mirren and Rachel McAdams in State of Play (2009)

As I already mentioned movies like "State of Play" don't come around that often, because basically everything about it works. Take the storyline, it starts quite simply there is a street thief chased across town before being killed by a mysterious man, next a woman dies on the subway. But not only do these two very separate killings end up linking in a believable way but the whole storyline evolves, evolves and evolves some more. And we see it evolving as we become one with old fashioned reporter Cal who starts off by trying to help a friend and gets drawn in to something a lot deeper, something which threatens his life. In a way the idea of a reporter getting in over his head isn't anything new but the way the story unfolds makes it so exciting.

Now part of the reason why "State of Play" is so exciting is because it is non stop from start to finish. So we have Cal getting in over his head as he investigates the death of Sonia, learning of her affair with his friend Stephen and also her part in a crucial committee on the outsourcing of homeland security. Then we have the antagonistic battle between Cal and fellow reporter Della Frye because whilst he is an old school reporter she represents the new age of reporting as she heads the paper's blog team. Throw in their boss Cameron Lynne who is not only on their case to get the story in time to go to print but also finds herself in the midst of the old and new battle. All of these as well as relationships create this story which often has several elements going on in a single scene, the investigation, the battle, the pressure and it makes it seriously exciting. It also makes it a movie you can't keep your eyes off of because you don't want to miss a thing.

As such the people behind the camera, director Kevin Macdonald and the writing team of Matthew Michael Carnahan, Tony Gilroy and Billy Ray who adapted Paul Abbott's original story deserve a lot of praise. They have delivered a movie which unlike many thrillers is genuinely thrilling with a mix of intrigue and energy. As I just said there is a lot going on and it is delivered in such a style of urgency that you feel compelled to watch everything, not so much in trying to second guess where it is all going but so that you don't miss a thing. And whilst I am sure there must be some plot holes in the story seeing they have crammed so much in you don't notice anything obvious which makes it crumble.

Now we have intrigue, energy and the final element which makes "State of Play" so good is confidence. Every actor knows what they are doing, they know exactly who their character is be it Ben Affleck as Stephen Collins or Rachel McAdams as Della Frye and so when they deliver their lines it doesn't feel scripted it feels like actors fully into their role, living the moment of drama. And leading this is Russell Crowe who once again shows what an immense acting talent he is, not only creating this almost stereotypical portrait of a journalist whose life is totally unorganized but also one whose years of experience and contacts makes him good at his job, smelling out the real story. You also at the same time get his humorous resentment of the advancing world as he types his work on a relic of a computer at a desk covered in papers disliking the way blogger Della almost swans about thinking her way is best. Although Helen Mirren certainly gives Crowe a run for his money in what is quite a small role as Editor of the paper but one who is in the battle ground of merging old with new.

What this all boils down to is that "State of Play" is a very special thriller, not necessarily a great thriller but one which is exciting, compelling, energetic, well acted and intriguing. Basically it is everything that a thriller should be which ironically is quite rare these days and as such when you've watched it once you will want to watch it again.