DVD/Blu-ray Reviews

State of Play - DVD Review



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</script></div>{/googleAds}We knew State of Play would get a warm reception from most traditional daily broadsheet film critics, what with how the film lovingly endears the viewer to good old-fashioned shoe-leather journalism, ironclad journalistic ethics and everything good about newspaper writers. Throw in the film's somewhat cynical depiction of how newfangled bloggers and web writers represent all that's wrong with today's journalism, and State of Play will surely find itself atop most critic's faves lists for 2009.

But never mind all that. State of Play takes on deeper, more meaningful concerns than whether or not the general public understands how an editor's pen can really screw up a writer's voice, or how the pressures of a daily turnaround can affect an article. The film tackles such meaty issues as conflict and compromise, loyalty and love, and power and career aspirations. It's an airtight political thriller that'll have the audience on the edge of its seat, despite the fact that towards the end, it gets a little too twisty for its own good. So solid in all aspects, you just can't help but love this film.

State of PLayWriters Matthew Michael Carnahan and Tony Gilroy adapt the story from the highly popular six-hour British TV drama of the same name, only they bring the setting to the U.S., with the names and incidents remaining fairly true to the original. It involves Washington Globe reporter, Cal McAffrey (Russell Crowe), who's currently working a story on the shooting of a drug dealer and petty purse-snatcher. McAffrey soon begins to link the criminal's murder to the recent death of a Congressional aide (Maria Thayer) who was having an affair with Stephen Collins (Ben Affleck), a rising junior member of the House of Representatives... and friend of McAffrey. After further investigation, Cal convinces himself that private military contractors may be responsible for the murders, and that they may be trying to ruin the reputation of Rep. Collins as well.

Even though he cut more than four hours from the miniseries, director Kevin Macdonald, still manages to guide us through the complicated plot with a great sense of pacing and atmosphere. The largest portions of the film take place within the dingy walls of a newspaper building with dropped-ceilings, cluttered cubicles and miles and miles of paper reams and desktop computers. Visually, Macdonald wanted to pay tribute to All the President's Men, one of the best journalism movies ever. He mostly succeeds by making the Globe's environment a major character.

Despite the hardships associated with getting filming permits in D.C., the filmmakers managed to do so and shot other significant portions of the film on the Streets of Washington (where people work, not where tourists gawk), giving the proceedings a deliciously local flavor. A scene shot in the Maine Avenue Fish Market near the waterfront is the meeting place between Cal and a mercenary group insider who acts as a kind of â"deepthroatâ" informer, providing leads and other inside information to keep Cal hot on the murderer's trail.

Another key scene shot in the Library of Congress is where Stephen Collins holds a press conference with his wife after it is revealed he had an intimate affair with Sonia Baker, the congressional aide whose murder or suicide McAffrey is trying to link into the investigation.

Russell Crowe is in his element here. He's better suited for the somewhat doughey anti-social type rather then the handsome leading man. His McAffrey is lovable and endearing despite his unkempt appearance and slovenly habits. And he lays off the wit, unlike in his disastrous funnyman turn in A Good Year. He and his investigative partner, young op/ed blogger Della Frye (Rachel McAdams), come to an eventual understanding of mutual acceptance, even though their relationship remains tenuous at best, strained by their own views of old school vs. new school journalism.

Crowe is aided by top-notch performances from Helen Mirren as the newspaper's tough-as-nails Chief Editor, Robin Wright Penn as Congressman Stephens's wife, and Jason Bateman who nearly steals the show as a sleazy public relations specialist.

State of Play gets most of the things right that make a great suspense thriller. Macdonald is a skilled enough director to handle the complexities of the tedious plot while also injecting it with some great characters, and a rich environment. He even manages to have something meaningful to say about the sad state of today's journalistic trade. It's like a heartfelt send off to dying daily newspapers and the role they play in our society.


Component Grades
Movie
DVD
4 stars
2 stars
DVD Experience
3 Stars

DVDDVD Details:

Screen Formats: 2.35:1

Subtitles: English SDH, French, and Spanish

Language and Sound: English: DTS 5.1 HD French: DTS 5.1 Surround Spanish: DTS 5.1 Surround

Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access; deleted scenes; making-of featurette.
Supplements:

Commentary: None

Featurettes:

  • The Making of State of Play (18:45)

Deleted Scenes - (3:40)

Previews - None

Number of Discs: 1 with Keepcase Packaging

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