a critiQal film review State of Play (2009)

  • DVD
  • Blu-Ray

Plot: When D.C. reporter Cal McCaffrey (Crowe) is assigned to investigate the murder of an assistant to an up-and-coming politician (Affleck), he uncovers a conspiracy that threatens to bring down the nation's power structure. In a town of spin doctors and wealthy power brokers, he will discover one truth: when fortunes are at stake, no one's integrity, love or life is safe.

556 words (Est. Reading Time 2m 46s)
  • ...a masterfully woven middle and a solid ensemble cast lead this film towards greatness - but a disappointing and downright sloppy ending leaves the viewer with a sour taste in their mouth.

Now that our Summer At The Movies 2009 has come to a close, it’s time to go back and catch up on some of the recent DVD releases we missed. Finally back into our pattern with Blockbuster®, we got three in the mail this weekend, and one of them was State Of Play, starring Russell Crowe, Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams, etc.

Oddly, I didn’t really catch any hints about how this movie was while it was in theaters this past April, so I was unsure what to expect when I sat down to watch the DVD. Sure, it had a lot of well-known people in the cast, but would State of Play be able to live up to the expectations it’s cast generates, or was it just another throwaway conspiracy thriller?

Russell Crowe is at the center of State of Play. While not up to his brilliant performance in A Beautiful Mind (2001), Crowe’s maverick reporter Cal is a good role for Crowe, and Crowe lives up to his end of the deal. Whether he’s dealing with his boss (a strong Helen Mirren), or showing a young reporter (Rachel McAdams, who is a breath of fresh air in this dark film) how to cope with the situations that arise, he seems to be entirely in his element, and viewers will stick around to see what he does.

Ben Affleck gets second billing in State of Play, but, like many of his most recent films, doesn’t quite live up to the high status. Very nearly overshadowed by his wife (Robin Wright Penn), he seems to almost coast through his part. He manages to surprise the viewer a time or two, but mainly it’s nothing viewers haven’t seen before, and won’t remember much about afterward.

At first, State of Play seems like a solid thriller. Grabbing the viewer’s attention with a shady assassination right from the start, the film weaves a sordid tale that the viewer will find themselves easily ensnared in. During the middle of the film, the viewer is a willing participant in the on-screen web, and will find themselves waiting with baited breath for whatever awaits.

Unfortunately, that tension starts falling apart before the finale. Despite being completely wrapped up in the film for about two-thirds of it, the viewer will find their attention waning as the film begins to draw to a close, snipping interesting threads without so much as a second thought. By the time the film does finally draw to a close, the viewer will be surprised at how easily such a tightly-wound thriller fell apart.

With a little less harsh editing near the end, State of Play, with it’s good (and sometimes great) ensemble cast and it’s nice build-up of tension, could have ended up being a lot more satisfying when all was said and done. As it is, the ending is so choppy and disjointed (and a surprise twist that’s only a surprise because it’s never even hinted at prior to it’s exposure), the viewer will find themselves sitting in stunned disbelief as the movie falls apart around them.

Still worth a rental, this State of Play just won’t stand up to multiple viewings, and will leave the viewer feeling slightly cheated – despite the tension just half an hour earlier that had them collectively holding their breath and hanging on every word.

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