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Saturday, April 18, 2009

Review: STATE OF PLAY


I suppose you need to have a guy like Cal McAffrey for a movie like this to work.

He puts dates, places, people, events and connections together in his mind like it's no more difficult than the box score to a Celtics game. It's a bit ridiculous to have such a computer-brained protagonist, but in a film that is an adaptation from a six-hour BBC political crime thriller, you are just going to have to accept it; Cal McAffrey is the man.

Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland) has brought a very well crafted film to the table here. Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton) wrote it, along with Billy Ray and Matthew Michael Carnahan, and while it is very clever, suspenseful, and often times funny, it seems to lack the sharpness and originality that was present in Michael Clayton. Don't get me wrong, it's a very solid movie, but I think it wouldn't have hurt to send the script through one more draft, and just get a little more in there. I can't say exactly what it lacked. It was awesome, but I just felt like I wanted a bit more.

As I said Russell Crowe plays Cal McAffrey, a smart and dry reporter for the Washington Tribune. While in the middle of investigation the murder of his good friend Commissioner Stephen Collins' (Ben Affleck) mistress, he stumbles upon clues and leads that send him into an obsessive hunt to expose the conspiracy of a giant corporation in DC. He teams up with a young blogger for the Tribune (Rachel McAdams) to expose the truth. I won't say anymore, because the film is very reliant on the plot, and its many twists. But what political crime thriller isn't?

Again, I can't exactly say why this movie didn't blow me away; it just didn't. We have some very solid performances by all of the actors. Russell Crowe is the best of all. And this is coming from someone who doesn't really like to watch him. His lazy eye always freaked me out. But here his eye is under control, as is his performance. He's a very likable character who really draws you in. Next best is Ben Affleck. Now, really, why does he get so much sh*t? It seems to be the fad to say Affleck is a bad actor. I've always liked him, and I think he's very, very good in this. He has a lot to struggle with as his character, and I think he plays it very well.

Now, on to Rachel McAdams. Anyone who has read my posts should know she is my favorite actress, for more reasons than one (if you catch my drift). And I'm sorry to say, she is not my favorite character here. I feel like her part was very underwritten, and she got excited to play a part in such a fun thriller. She definitely breathes much more life into the role than was written for it, and I honestly feel the character would suck without her. She's very good, I would even go so far as to say great, but she had nothing to work with.

In the end, I really have nothing specifically negative to say about the film, but I also have nothing glowing to say. It's a very good movie, and I recommend you see it, but don't expect to walk out with your world rocked. A 3 might be a bit undeserved, but a 4 suggests I had a lot to think about when I left.

Also, I don't know why it's called State of Play. Maybe that got left in the miniseries.
3 stars

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