Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Review: State of Play

State of Play
Dir. Kevin Macdonald
Year: 2009
Aus Rating: M
Running Time: 127mins

Anybody who remembers the 2006 awards season will remember my general loathing of Kevin Macdonald's The Last King of Scotland. So going into his latest feature (he started his film career with documentaries such as the brilliant One Day in September) I was wary. Was this, yet another political thriller, going to be yet another bombastic nauseating experience? Thankfully not and I ended up being pleasantly surprised as the film is an at-times quite exciting and intriguing journalistic movie. It has delusions of being a love-letter to the proud days of newspaper journalism, but thankfully the movie itself hasn't succumbed to modern mainstreams tricks and silliness to tell its tale.

Not having seen the British mini-series from which State of Play is adapted, I was not aware of the many twists and turns that I figured the tale was sure to have. Despite a final act botch-up involving the character of Robin Wright-Penn Macdonald mostly succeeds in making a no-fuss movie. More for adults - there is copious amounts of dialogue and the "thriller" elements are decidedly brief and un-flashy - it features good performances out of Ben Affleck as a scandalous senator and Russell Crowe as the journalist friend out to solve the story. Helen Mirren adds fire as Crowe's editor and Jason Bateman arrives in fourth gear as a sleazy PR agent. It is, however, Rachel McAdams that comes out best from the film and it's just a shame she doesn't have more to do because it was nice to reminded of her talent.

State of Play isn't reinventing the wheel, but it does succeed in being a well-made drama/thriller that doesn't always use the easy options (doesn't always, but sometimes does). It wastes throwaway story-lines, that were obviously more prevalent in the British extended TV series, and the actors involved in them (that would be Wright-Penn and Jeff Daniels), but it provides enough fire to make for a rousing piece of movie entertainment. B

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