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 who spies a conspiracy waiting to be uncovered. With a turbulent past connected to the Congressman and the aid of ambitious young rookie writer Della Frye, Cal begins uprooting clues that lead him to a corporate cover-up full of insiders, informants, and assassins. But 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. Written by
The Massie Twins
A Pleasant Throw Back to Early Pressburger/Powell Espionage and a Pakula Classic
Whether you loved em' or hated em', espionage thrillers made up a generous portion of cinema from the 1940-50's. With fast paced, edge of your seat story lines, plot twists, political undertones and dramatic personal struggles with morality, nobody did it better than Emeric Pressburger and Michael Powell. Their attention to character detail and it's purpose in conjunction with the narrative gave heart and humanity to this new string of movies which could have fallen into similar (yet shallower) alpha male characters such as James Bond. Never the less, we cannot forget that ultimately if it weren't for their vision and invention of the genre, Hollywood may have never capitalized on the staggeringly profitable Bond franchise that's still going strong today.
In the mid 70's, due to the heat of the political environment at that time, the genre decided to go in the same direction. All The Presidents Men, brought to light the investigative strategies of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein and tackled the Watergate scandal from the perspective of the Washington Post. As audiences, we shared in the thrill of being able to follow the case as it unfolded, interviewing witnesses and piecing together clues in order to make a 10 O'clock print deadline. We were part of the chase, the scandal and always privy to the evidence necessary to solve the mystery at hand...that is until a new piece of evidence arose and bashed in all of our original assumptions.
State of Play may be the first film to pay homage to this Pakula classic while dually creating more poignant themes for today's political atmosphere. Crowe plays a reporter for the Washington Post and McAdams, an internet blogger, serving as our Woodward and Bernstein clones on the case of a Senator, Affleck, whose mistress succumbs to a rather untimely death VIA train tracks. To add insult to injury, it turns out that our reporter and senator are practically best friends. The plot unfolds, relationships falter and the real truth, to our pleasant surprise, blindsides us like a drunk driver on a narrow road.
Director Kevin Macdonald clearly knows what he's doing here and along with a well written screenplay by Tony Gilroy, carefully crafts a neat, sharp and extremely entertaining thrill ride of a movie whose run time is 2 hours and 15 minutes, but feels like 30. State of Play never fails at keeping you guessing, does a fine job of throwing in a few curve balls, and leaves you with a clean taste in your mouth come end credits. What more do you want? Sure. It isn't the next Best Picture and Crowe won't take home an Oscar, but you'll enjoy some nail biting action scenes and there are much worse things to look at than Rachel McAdams on the big screen for a few hours.
Helen Mirren is delightful in what little screen time she is given. Affleck is "good", although decided to play it completely safe in a role that even he really can't screw up. Lets face it, he needed to gain even a small amount of points since Hollywoodland and the flops that followed in his footsteps.
Overall, you'll be as pleased and refreshed as I was to see a picture that has the finesse of an espionage thriller, the entertainment value of an All The Presidents Men political drama and the edginess that we should expect from a modern day piece of cinema that doesn't star Miley Cyrus.
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