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Movie Review: State of Play

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Russell Crowe and Ben Affleck headline this dramatic thriller as two high profile players in Washington D.C. who are also friends. Crowe plays experienced journalist Cal McAffrey while Affleck stars as Senator Stephen Collins. When Collins’ assistant, played by Maria Thayer, is murdered, a sandstorm of scandal ensues as Cal has personal concerns for his friend and his wife Anne, played by Robin Wright Penn. Cal also becomes involved in an important story involving high level defense contracts at The Washington Globe where he works.

Rachel McAdams also stars as Della Frye, a high profile blogger for the newspaper who also gets put on this big story. She’s not familiar with the investigative footwork, so Cal helps her out. At first he’s reluctant, but the duo slowly creates a partnership that uncovers information so efficiently that the police eventually get involved in the discovered evidence as well. Detective Donald Bell, played by Harry Lennix (Matrix Reloaded), works with Cal on several local stories, but the pressure surrounding this story’s circumstances starts to drive a wedge between the two experts as their respective bosses fight for information and that all important answer surrounding several crimes.

PhotobucketHelen Mirren also stars as The Washington Globe’s editor Cameron Lynne. Mirren brings important realism to the proceedings as she’s pressured to sell more newspapers, due to new corporate management, but faithfully stands by her staff as they delve deeper into a burgeoning conspiracy. Co-stars Jason Bateman, Viola Davis, Jeff Daniels, and Michael Berresse also factor into a plot that puts personal relationships and professional motives into the mix. Tony Gilroy continues an amazing cinematic success streak (the Bourne films, Michael Clayton) by co-writing a great screenplay with Billy Ray and Matthew Michael Carnahan while Kevin Macdonald directs the film with a smooth visual flow similar to a documentary.

The action sequences are crisp and exciting plus you get enticing themes like street life situations, military outsourcing, and the changing face of journalism amid new media. Crowe does a great job as the portly, mildly selfish Cal. He presses subjects for information well, but still keeps them safe. “The more you talk, the more you’re protected,” Cal says to a weary public relations executive. Others have a different spin on Cal the “truthseeker” who always seems to know how to get into trouble.

Cal’s look of epiphany near the film’s climax is familiar, but still priceless while McAdams and Mirren make the most of their strong roles. Highly recommended and rated PG-13 for some violence, language including sexual references, and brief drug content. This 127 minute political thriller is adapted from the acclaimed 2003 British television series.

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