"State of Play"
Directed by Kevin Macdonald.
Written by Matthew Michael Carnahan, Tony Gilroy and Billy Ray.
Starring Russell Crowe, Rachel McAdams, Ben Affleck and Helen Mirren.
Release Year: 2009
Review Date: 4/19/09
After attending the free showing of "State of Play" here in DC a few
days ago, I must say--it took a hundred years, but somebody finally made
a film set in Washington actually feel like it was set in Washington
right down to the details and I didn't feel ripped off.
And, the film was pretty good, too.
Sure, it creates a couple of "hmm" situations, but "State of
Play"--based on a British TV series, apparently--does a good job of
being a populist thriller without dumbing itself down as well as
giving us a genuine portrait of Washington, despite the fact that we
have three foreigners playing the leads at a Washington, DC-based
newspaper. Russell Crowe (Aussie) plays Cal McAffrey, a
veteran reporter who initially follows up on a story involving two
gunshot victims in Georgetown. Meanwhile, Rachel McAdams
(Canadian) plays Della Frye, an upstart blogger working for the same
newspaper as Cal, who stumbles upon another story after it is
learned that a congressman's mistress has been murdered...is there a
connection between the timing of these two events? And, does
it matter that Cal is best friends with the congressman, Stephen
Collins (Ben Affleck)? And, why does the Washington Post-like
paper have an editor who is clearly British (Helen Mirren)??
Most of these questions get answered. Here's what I'll
say--"State of Play" makes me forget about the atrocities committed
by films like "Enemy of the State" (hell, even by films like
"xXx: State of the Union") which badly guessed at how life is
here in DC, or where Alexandria is in relation to Dupont Circle, or
that Baltimore is not within sight of the Washington Monument.
In terms of territorial proximity alone, "State of Play" should win
an Oscar. Then, you get a lot of
very-obviously-shot-on-location shots (although, my guess is that
the scenes at the newspaper offices were not shot in a building
here) and you get little moments of beauty, like an interrogation at
a local seedy hotel...the seedy Americana Hotel in Crystal City,
which really is five minutes outside of town, so when someone drives
there from the city, it really does take five minutes...seriously, I
can't believe that this is the first DC movie I have ever seen that
appears to get that just right. References to other places
around town, mixed with shots of local celebrities like Frank Herzog
(playing a fellow US congressman) or DC's own newscasters like Jim
Vance, make "State of Play" a lot of fun...and, for dessert, you get
a shot of Cal buying chili dogs at Ben's Chili Bowl. Come on,
DC people...you know they never get it just right, so enjoy the
And, the movie crackles along like a crackling, edge-of-your-seat
political thriller with a thriller-type score and moments of
intensity, like when Cal is typing at his computer, or when
characters make intense phone calls from cell phones while looking
everywhere to make sure no one is watching them. I think it's
not a bad thing that "State of Play" is a thriller for the masses
because it entertains despite the formula. We get a couple of
tense moments, some laughs, a couple of surprises, and some social
critique on the state of the American newspaper (although,
obviously, the fifth season of "The Wire" did it a hundred times
better...sigh). And, there's a reason why Crowe and Mirren
have been nominated for six Oscars combined...the acting here is
strong but it's made stronger because you can almost tell that the
other performers are trying to hold their own whenever Crowe or
Mirren are onscreen...good stuff.
And, the guy that directed this movie did the incredible
the Void" a few years ago...add that to the Netflix queue right
now. "State of Play" should have ended five minutes before it
did--unnecessary twists convolute an already-fine ending--but
otherwise, it did the job as a solid-but-not-spectacular spring
Rating: $9.50 Show
Comments? Drop me a line at
Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard