johnlink ranks STATE OF PLAY (2009)

Had a bunch of stuff clogging up the DVR and Liz and I decided to knock something off of it. A light thriller seemed to be something desirable, so we went with STATE OF PLAY. We were pleasantly surprised to find a well above-average, if not perfect, political thriller with themes of media role in today’s society.

I watched STATE OF PLAY (2009) on 6.12.10. It was my first viewing of the film. TRAILER HERE

This is a film which is a sort of fictional ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN. A film with journalists as heroes protecting truth from the dangers of politicians. Where the 70s movie was successful in part because the world had just experienced the dishonesty of Nixon, STATE OF PLAY works because we can imagine the truth about Haliburton is not too far from the fiction the screenplay creates around the fictional company called PointCorp.

Russell Crowe gives an understated performance as a reporter who starts the film singing and high-fiving his way through the world, and finishes it coldly walking out the door. He is a changed man for what he saw, and he has changed his sidekick, a young blogger played well by Rachel McAdams. Their chemistry (non-sexual, thankfully) raises this film as an average script is helped by exceptional acting. Aiding them is Helen Mirren as their editor and, in a surprisingly successful role, Ben Affleck as a young upstart Senator. Viola Davis , Jeff Daniels, and Jason Bateman are successful in their cameos, though Robin Wright is slightly underutilized as the Senator’s wife.

The script develops some solid themes in the argument of print vs. internet. It positions its reporters on opposite sides of this argument to start, always with the potential death of the paper they work for looming. Quick hits are valued over exhaustive stories, and an editor is in the position of bad-guy as she tries to placate her unseen corporate owners. This serves as the backdrop as the reporters attempt to discover the truth behind why a Senator’s mistress seemed to have killed herself just as the Senator is about to take on the big corporate privatized military firm in congress.

The dialogue mostly works, and the pacing is solid. There are some massively predictable moments, and the ending feels tacked on. Without that ending, I think my writing ranking would have jumped two points. For most of this movie, the story forgets it is a thriller and just focuses on being good. At the end, it remembers it is supposed to be a thriller again.

I enjoyed the hell out of this movie though. It was, in turns, funny, powerful, and intense. You care about the characters and feel like they aren’t just cookie-cutter stocks. Much of that has to do with the acting, but it also has to do with the detail work by the set-dressers and the art department. Someone calls Crowe’s character ‘Pittsburgh’ at the beginning, and later we see him drinking from a Steelers cup. Easy, yes. But that is the sort of detail which lesser movies don’t bother with. Crowe’s car, work-space, and living-space are representations of his character and they tell, with a single picture, volumes about him.

Again, I went in to this expecting average, and got well above-average. Classic? Maybe not. But certainly worthwhile and rewatchable.


FILM: 7; MOVIE: 8; ACTING: 7; WRITING: 5 (what is this?)



~ by johnlink00 on June 13, 2010.

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