Movie Review: State of Play

Cast: Russell Crowe, Rachel McAdams, Ben Affleck, Robin Wright Penn, Jeff Daniels and Helen Mirren.

This was a decent film that I’d definitely see again.

Stuff I Didn’t Like

  • While not badly written, the plot does follow some predictable thriller tropes.  The hype promised a twist “YOU WILL NEVER SEE COMING” and as a result the canny viewer is on their toes for the twist, which is more than likely the fact that the big evil monolithic PMC is not in fact the Big Bad of the movie.
  • It’s good to see a villainous character, the ex-military crazy gunman in this case, get a bit of believable characterization, but even in films I have a hard time believing that someone would get loaded for bear and walk into a no-win situation without a plan.  Better to die on your feet than live on your knees, I know, but my father was right in saying a sniper scope would’ve made a big difference.  Phone the reporter to explain yourself and plink him from a thousand yards, don’t walk up to him with an M4 and expect to stroll away.
  • Is it somewhere in Ben Affleck’s contract that he needs to cry in every role he takes on?
  • They could have given Jeff Daniels’ conservative congressman a bit more depth.  While he’s a talented actor and I’m always happy to see him getting work, his character might has well have been named Congressman Plot Device (R-WV).

Stuff I Liked

  • That said, Ben Affleck did fine.  He’s a good actor with some decent range, I just think the waterworks were a bit much.  And as I said I do like Jeff Daniels, quite a bit actually.
  • Telling a story about the death of the newspaper.  The fact that the paper in the film (which is totally not the Washington Post, honest) is being bought out by a monolithic media conglomerate points to a sad commentary on our lives.  I’m as guilty as the next person for not having the patience to sit down in the morning and get newsprint on my fingers, but it seems that more and more businesses are concerned about profits over integrity.  We wouldn’t be in this economic tar pit we’re struggling out of if the movers and shakers on Wall Street worried about something other than their next sacrifice intended to pacify the Almighty Dollar.  It does cause the characters’ goodness to shine through all the more, but it’s still a sad commentary.  That said, it just about makes this film worth seeing.  It’s the first really good newspaper film in a while, perhaps since All The President’s Men, and it might be the last.
  • It’s hard not to like Rachel McAdams.  She easily gives the impression that, while inexperienced, her cub blogger character has a good head on her shoulders and a nose for news.
  • We see a lot of Washington, DC in this film and I’m glad to see little places like that chili restaurant get time on a big screen.  I got the impression that’s a fun place to grab lunch.
  • I was tickled that Russel Crowe & Ben Affleck played PA boys, and that Crowe’s reporter was a Steelers fan.  Every logo in his cubicle or apartment made me smile.  And he drank Jameson’s too.  Does that count as product placement, I wonder?
  • Decent tension in the garage sequence, and I’m glad Crowe’s hand stayed bound up until the end of the film after that.  That lent the story more realism.
  • The final scene, with everybody gathered around Crowe’s desk as he bangs out the story.

Stuff I Loved

  • Russel Crowe.  I think he’s underrated as an actor.  I haven’t seen Body of Evidence yet, but I have the feeling his CIA character in that film is as different from this reporter as this reporter is from General Maximus.  He handles this material extremely well and gives us hope that there are still good reporters out there who are less interested in scandal than they are in the truth.
  • Helen Mirren.  She classes up just about any film she’s in, even she’s launching dirty Brit slang words like so many ballista bolts at her unfortunate target.
  • The fact that Helen, HM The Queen, dropped the F-bomb.

The writing was very snappy and smart, the circumstances and scenes weren’t far-fetched in the slightest, and everybody treated their parts and lines with an appropriate level of solemnity.  It’s a solid piece of film-making despite the hype and I’ll be picking it up on DVD.


  1. I saw this a week ago, and your comments are spot on. I LOVED the final scene.

    And I haven’t really been much of a Crowe fan over the years, but I did see Body of Lies recently, and I have to say, his range is outstanding.

  2. Movies that advertise “YOU WILL NEVER SEE THIS PLOT TWIST COMING!” don’t seem to be worth watching to me. I mean, seriously, *that’s* what you’re trying to hook me with?

    Makes me think that they’ve got a shitty movie that I wouldn’t normally bother to see, but OMG WE HIRED M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN PLZ COME WATCH SO WE CAN MAKE PAYROLL!

    What a twit!

    That being said, adding Ewan MacGregor to a movie (see: Angels and Demons) makes me want to see it. So maybe they should just have said “IT’S GOT EWAN MACGREGOR!” and paid him for a 2-second cameo.

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