It’s ridiculous to ask the question: ‘What is this movie about?’
Of course it’s about a scruffy-looking journalist who doesn’t back down for anyone, teaming up with a young ambitious rookie writer to try and save their newspaper, The Globe.
It’s also about the seemingly unrelated deaths of a petty thief, a pizza delivery boy whose life is hanging by a thread, and a Congressman’s assistant who mysteriously falls to her death in a subway station.
Thirdly, it’s also about the nearly-incomprehensible maze of political innuendos, hidden agendas of journalists who use/abuse their sources merely for information and the headache-inducing cloud of dramatic turn of events.
State of play is an ok movie, but it’s trying too hard to be intelligent. It wants to be too much. Much like the newspaper, the movie wants to share ALL information … and this overload of fictitious facts becomes more of a bore than a magnet of entertainment …
State of play instantly reminds you of two similar movies.
Spotlight – ironically enough made 6 years later. Yet, both movies share many similarities – their stories are both woven in a thriller-like mysteriousness about the ever-growing pursuit of a newspaper on a daring mission to try and uncover a massive scandal.
We, the viewer, are literally sucked into every single defeat and victory the newspaper goes through. The setbacks that withhold the journalists from telling the simple truth, the wall of silence the perpetrators pull up so as to protect themselves and the crimes they committed …
State of play isn’t as effective in telling the story – which makes Spotlight easily the better movie – but there’s still plenty of scenes worthy of watching. Most especially the garage-scene where a frightened Russell Crowe is stalked by a professional killer stands out!
The other movie that breathes the same atmosphere as State of play is the 1994-cult classic The paper.
The essence of both movies is about the way a newspaper buzzes with adrenaline into finding new stories and pressing people for information. Again, it’s State of play that draws the short straw in this category as The paper is far more entertaining to watch.
But that doesn’t take away the simple fact that State of play is still quite pleasing to the eye when seeing all those hardworking journalists crushed behind their computer screens. Few movies in the modern history of American movies have portrayed a better atmospheric cinematography about journalism and the eccentric stress that comes with it.
So what is it about State of play that makes it only half-interesting?
Well, unless you have a special interest in the world of journalism … or a major crush on Russell Crowe or Rachel McAdams … or you love to watch spun out dramas with no upbeat outcome … you’ll find yourself ‘liking’ this movie, but never ‘loving’ it!
The problem is that the movie has too much information to share, with so many different faces and so many facts that each play a vital role into telling the intricate, complex story. Parts of the movie are plain filler and with a total runtime of +2 hours, it easily could’ve suspended with a few scenes. Or perhaps replace those scenes with actual meaningful character development.
The very reason why this isn’t a total bore is due to two simple facts.
1) The writing is eloquently done. Yes, the topic may be as boring as the pregnancy of a Bulgarian vegetable bat, but the actual dialogues are quite ‘hot off the press’.
2) The casting. State of play has so many wonderful actors, you can’t help but wonder why they installed Ben Affleck as the lead actor when – back in the day – he was clearly the weakest link of the entire movie, by far!
These days he does better in the acting department, and even surprised friend and foe by directing a couple of very-well made movies, such as The Town, but Ben Affleck will never be an actor’s actor … not really.
People like tough guy Russell Crowe, the ever-beautiful Robin Wright and the ever-fascinatingly awesome actress Helen Mirren are clear examples of what ‘true’ acting is all about.
They touch the ceiling of top-notch acting and become something else entirely: they become their characters in flesh and mind, whereas Ben Affleck – especially when he shouts madly at Russell Crowe which – sorry, Ben! – really doesn’t come across as convincing … well, he tries his best, but he is still acting instead of being!
Even Jason Bateman has more character in this movie than all Ben Affleck-performances combined! His small cameo-performance takes the heat off some of the more sincere scenes and lets us smile once or twice.
Also keep a look-out for Jeff Daniels … here’s a man who’s just as comfortable in dramas as he is in comedies.
Did you know?
Director Kevin Macdonald intended the movie to pay homage to the movie ‘All the president’s men’ by using the Watergate Hotel and the parking garage as locations.
Give it to me short:
State of play isn’t the kind of movie that you’ll remember years after you’ve watched it. You’ll probably enjoy it for as long as it takes to watch it – even though there are a few sluggish scenes that cause more harm to the movie than good – but this isn’t the kind of powerplay Hollywood will store in their long history of American classic movies.
Truthfully, the acting – aside from a mediocre Ben Affleck – is all top-notch!
Russell Crowe shines as an Irish rugged journalist backed up by the angel-like looking upper-class British performance of lady Helen Mirren. Furthermore you’ll definitely enjoy the presence of Jeff Daniels, the ever-pretty face of Robin Wright and the child-friendly smile of Rachel McAdams, though both ladies have a lot more to offer than their external beauty.
The movie itself is quite a rare gem, in that the story itself is often very boring but through some excellent dialogues and even better casting choices, it becomes almost a decent movie to watch. There are some scenes (like the garage-scene) that will shift you to the tip of your chair, yet other scenes – usually with Ben Affleck – are a straight bore.
Furthermore, this isn’t the most entertaining movie about the whims of an American newspaper – you might wanna check out The paper or Spotlight (both with Michael Keaton).
In the end, State of play is a movie that’ll grab you firmly from the start, but also might loosen its grip on you as time goes by.
Not a bad attempt, but with the overload of absolute awesome actors you’d expect a much better movie …