Director: Kevin Macdonald
Cast: Russell Crowe, Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams, Helen Mirren, Robin Wright Penn, Jason Bateman, Jeff Daniels, Harry Lennix
State Of Play is based on the BBC TV series of the same name, and is directed by Kevin Macdonald, the guy behind The Last King Of Scotland. The film begins with the murder of a petty thief and an attack on a pizza delivery man by a skilled assassin. The reason is unclear. Then the following morning, a woman named Sonia Baker is killed in a subway train accident.
Washington Globe journalist Cal McAffrey (Russell Crowe) digs into the first two attacks, which he feels were under odd circumstances. At the same time, Rep. Stephen Collins (Ben Affleck) receives news of Sonia's death. Sonia was his aide, and we subsequently learn that the two were having an affair. Collins' reaction to her death in front of the media makes tabloid headlines. It couldn't come at a worse time for him, as he is in the middle of a hearing where he is speaking out against Pointcorp, a large company pushing for sponsoring large defense contracts for the government.
Washington Globe news blogger Della Frye (Rachel McAdams) seeks Cal's help in investigating Sonia's death, because Cal and Stephen Collins were roommates in college. Cal is uncooperative at first, but he eventually works with Della after being persuaded by his editor, Cameron Lynne (Helen Mirren). Cal meets up with Stephen and tries to uncover the truth, and soon he and Della learn that the three incidents are related. Cal's friendship with Collins is then put to the test when the former starts to get romantically involved with the latter's wife (Robin Wright Penn), and the deeper Cal digs, the more his reputation and conscience is called into question.
Macdonald does a splendid job in helming a thriller that keeps you rooted in the goings on until the very end. It does not have plenty action scenes, but the characters and the riveting storyline are more than enough to reel you in and keep you on edge. The way Cal and Della investigate and probe for information, the way information is submitted, exchanged and eventually put out to the world through the media, is rather interesting to watch, which is a sure plus point for the film.
Crowe succeeds as Cal, and drives the film for the most part. He is a journalist who never stops seeking the facts at any cost, even when the people around him don't know if he's after a story or trying to help a friend, he pushes on. As the viewer, you sort of know whose side he's on, but do his methods justify his intentions? That is the question. McAdams, whom I've always disliked for simply being too good looking to take seriously, acquits herself well as Della, who is ambitious and yet sometimes too ambitious for her own good. Mirren is slightly wasted as the tough as nails editor Cameron though. A few more scenes with her would have made her more memorable. Penn and Jason Bateman (as an informant) lend credible support too. Affleck is somewhat miscast as Stephen Collins, but he didn't do too badly, just not enough to stand up to Crowe.
However, the film deserves a better climax than the one it got. There is a twist at the end, but its delivery wasn't very convincing. Thankfully, Russell Crowe's screen presence makes up for that. He is what makes State Of Play a worthwhile watch.
Stay for the closing credits, which show how a newspaper goes from print to ship. (4/5)