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May 3, 2009
Review - " State of Play "  - (in Theaters) By Roland Hansen
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State of Play ovei poster
Hellen Mirren, Rachel McAdams & Russel Crowe - State of Play
Ben Affleck and Robin Wright Penn - State of Play
State Of Play
Directed By: Kevin MacDonald
Starring: Russel Crowe, Ben Affleck, Hellen Mirren, Rachel McAdams, Robin
Wright Penn

"State of Play" looks like a provocative, '70s-style political thriller, and it's the
murder of a young woman, a rising congressman's mistress, that drives the

But it also turns out to be a fond homage to old-school journalism, and it plays
like a eulogy for a sadly dying industry - That's especially true of the footage
that rolls during the closing credits: the printing, packaging and shipping out of
a big-city newspaper. The images may seem mundane, but they also evoke
nostalgia for a more optimistic, prosperous time - especially for those who work
in this business. This all seems particularly topical given the possible demise of
The Boson Globe that has so recently garnered so much attention.

Russel Crowe's Cal McAffrey represents the last vestige of this way of life. A
veteran reporter for the Washington Globe (standing in for the Post), he drives
a beat-up 1990 Saab, crams junk food in this face on the way to a crime scene
and even keeps a bottle of whiskey in the drawer of his irreparably messy desk.
But he also happens to be old friends with the politician in question, Stephen Collins (Ben Affleck), who's chairman of the
committee overseeing defense spending. Cal's various conflicts of interest, and the congressman's, are revealed as the
police and the paper compete to investigate the killing.

Director Kevin Macdonald, who already showed a sure hand in navigating complex plots and intense intrigue with "The Last
King of Scotland," moves the story along smoothly through its various twists and turns. He also gets journalism right, which
doesn't always happen. Despite the quaint depiction of a packed newsroom bustling with activity, the debates about quick
online hits vs. hard-hitting investigations, between selling papers with fluff vs. offering actual substance, feel relevant and

Russell Crowe and Ben Affleck headline this dramatic thriller as the two high profile players in Washington D.C. who are
also friends. When Collins’ assistant, played by Maria Thayer, is murdered, a sandstorm of scandal ensues as Cal has
personal concerns for his friend and his wife Anne, played by Robin Wright Penn. Cal also becomes involved in an
important story involving high level defense contracts at The Washington Globe where he works.
Della Frye (Rachel McAdams-cute
as ever) is a high profile blogger
for the newspaper who also gets
put on this big story. She’s not
familiar with the investigative
footwork, so Cal helps her out. At
first he’s reluctant, but the duo
slowly creates a partnership that
uncovers information so efficiently
that the police eventually get
involved in the discovered
evidence as well. Detective
Donald Bell, played by Harry
Lennix (Matrix Reloaded), works
with Cal on several local stories,
but the pressure surrounding
this story’s circumstances starts to
drive a wedge between the two
experts as their respective bosses
fight for information and that all
important answer surrounding
several crimes.
Helen Mirren also stars as The Washington Globe’s editor Cameron Lynne. Mirren brings important realism to the
proceedings as she’s pressured to sell more newspapers, due to new corporate management, but faithfully stands by her
staff as they delve deeper into a burgeoning conspiracy. Co-stars Jason Bateman, Viola Davis, Jeff Daniels, and Michael
Berresse also factor into a plot that puts personal relationships and professional motives into the mix.

Believably disheveled, Crowe loses himself in yet another role, as always, he's a character actor in a leading man's body,
and he has some fiery exchanges with the always sharp Helen Mirren as the paper's editor. Crowe also has a comfortable
chemistry with Rachel McAdams as the young blogger he reluctantly accepts as his partner, and a couple of great scenes
with Jason Bateman as a sleazy PR exec who connects several key players. (Functioning as a bad guy is a welcome change
from him.)

But he and Affleck never feel like a good fit for each other, and not just in acting ability. The age difference is too distracting
and makes it difficult to believe they were college roommates, which is crucial to the plot. Crowe is 45 and looks it; and while
Affleck makes sense as a Washington up-and-comer with his generically smooth, vapid appearance, he's 36 and looks it,
Robin Wright Penn is also
an odd pairing for Affleck as
his victimized but dignified
wife. She, too, is supposed
to have gone to college with
Stephen and Cal. At 43, she
feels natural with Crowe
(and their characters
enjoyed a fling in the past,
which isn't implausible) but
it's hard to accept her as
Affleck's wife.

These aren't the things we
should be occupying our
mind with when there's
much meatier stuff to sink
our teeth into on screen.
The action sequences are crisp and exciting plus you get enticing themes like street life situations, military outsourcing, and
the changing face of journalism amid new media. Crowe does a great job as the portly, mildly selfish Cal. He presses
subjects for information well, but still keeps them safe. “The more you talk, the more you’re protected,” Cal says to a weary
public relations executive. Others have a different spin on Cal the “truthseeker” who always seems to know how to get into
trouble. Sometimes the truth does not favor the righteous, and "State of Play" dwells directly in the world where nothing is
black and white. It's engaging and entertaining without sacrificing intelligence - a definite must see for those who like smart
political thrillers