State of Play

Before the onset of the blockbuster, films like State of Play were part of Hollywood’s standard fare. A light action drama, it’s not exciting enough to be a summer tentpole release nor heavy enough to be considered for an Oscar. The filmmakers have made a nice character driven drama, aimed at adults. It is a welcome prelude to the summer when teenagers will take over the multiplexes.

State of Play is based on a celebrated British miniseries. It stars Russell Crowe as Cal McCaffrey, a slovenly crime reporter for the Washington Globe. Ben Affleck play Stephen Collins, a representative from Pennsylvania and an old college buddy of Cal’s. When the Stephen’s aide is pushed off a metro platform, one of three suspicious murders in a short period of time, Cal investigates the story. The plot twists then start piling up.

This is a wonderful cast. Crowe is one of the best actors working today and he captures Cal’s central conflict of loyalty to his friend vs. his duty to his job. It’s a masterful performance. Ben Affleck is well within his range as a crusading congressman, trying to do some good in a town where that is very difficult. The supporting cast is great too. Rachel McAdams plays the paper’s political blogger, Della Frye. She captures being young and smart but inexperienced very well. Helen Mirren plays Cal’s boss, a tough publisher who’s under pressure from the new owners to make more profits.

Matthew Michael Carnahan and Tony Gilroy’s script is intelligent and sharp. You really have to pay attention to keep up.  Kevin MacDonald’s direction, likewise is very good. The film is well paced and suspenseful.

In two weeks we’ll in the season of adamantine claws, starships and boy wizards. I’m looking forward to it, but I like this stuff too.

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