State of Play (2009)
State of Play (2009)

Genre: Political Thriller Running Time: 2 hrs. 7 min.

Release Date: April 17th, 2009 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Kevin Macdonald Actors: Russell Crowe, Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams, Jason Bateman, Helen Mirren, Robin Wright, Jeff Daniels




hough burdened with a title just as bland and ambiguous as his previous film (to be fair, “State of Play” is based on a BBC mini-series of the same name), Russell Crowe delivers yet another powerhouse performance that makes investigative journalism feel as exciting, dangerous, brutal, and immoral as political corruption and corporate espionage. While at times it’s a little preachy on the paranoia of homeland security privatization, the film offers an intriguing view on the ethics and business practices of the media. Simultaneously, it consistently entertains with its brisk unraveling of an intricate and suspenseful mystery.

A petty thief is gunned down in an alley and a Congressman’s assistant falls in front of a subway – two seemingly unrelated deaths. But not to wisecracking, brash newspaper reporter Cal McAffrey (Russell Crowe), who suspects a conspiracy waiting to be uncovered. With a turbulent past connected to the Congressman (Ben Affleck), and the aid of ambitious young rookie writer Della Frye (Rachel McAdams), Cal begins uprooting clues that lead him to a corporate cover-up full of insiders, informants, and assassins. As he draws closer to the truth, the relentless journalist must decide if it’s worth risking his life and selling his soul to get the ultimate story.

“State of Play” wastes no time getting into the plot, and succeeds at keeping the pacing intense and the investigative journalism suspenseful. The twists toward the end and several of the subplots convolute the already intricate conspiracy core, but miraculously, it manages to never become dull. Helen Mirren’s fire-tongued newspaper editor is well-acted but severely generic, Affleck feels miscast as a statesman, and as much as the story pulls the audience in, at times it’s recognizably formulaic. It’s difficult to top the already large pool of conspiracy-theory murder-mystery films that populate rental shelves without demonstrating something truly unique.

“State of Play” is routinely thought-provoking, especially when reinforcing the idea that the media has the power to blackmail informants with their very lives. While sleuthing feasible governmental horrors, the film really works to interrogate the values of the press and the fine line between journalism and breaking the law. The super secret sources, harboring of evidence for headline benefit, and interference with cops on the case, calls into question the moral values of media moguls. Cal dubs it the “nature of the beast” when discussing the negative publicity surrounding Collins as a public officer, but with all the inherent conspiracies and corruption tied into the military, politics, and press, it seems the true beast is information and how it is selectively dished out to the blind public. That’s the real power.

– The Massie Twins

  • 6/10