State of Play

A U.S. Senator’s lead research assistant dies in a tragic accident, sparking rumours of an illicit affair between the two. As his career unravels, so too do the details of his lover’s death. There is always more to the story in Washington.

Russell Crowe, Helen Mirren, and Stephen Parks in State of Play (2009)

Title: State of Play
Director: Kevin MacDonald.
Genre: Drama, Thriller, Mystery.
Main Cast: Russell Crowe, Rachael McAdams, Ben Affleck, Helen Mirren.
Runtime: 127 mins.
MDb rating: 7.1/10.
My rating: 8/10.
Quick summary: After a research assistant for a powerful politician turns up dead, Washington Globe journalist Cal (Crowe) begins to piece together a much more sinister story than what is being presented to the press. With the help of fellow journalist Della (McAdams) he tries to figure out if old college friend turned political star Stephen (Affleck) is about to plummet to his own downfall.

Helen Mirren and Rachel McAdams in State of Play (2009)
McAdams and Mirren

I am a simple man who watches movies from his favourite genre of entertainment far too often. The whodunnit mystery thrillers give me a sense of excitement that I don’t get in my normal day to day life. Reading a murder mystery novel can keep me up for hours as I try to solve the case before the detective does so in the pages in front of me. Similarly, while watching mystery movies I am trying to think about each character’s motives in relation to whatever crime was committed. Sometimes I am content to sit back and let the movie tell me what is going on and who is doing what but State of Play is not that kind of movie. As Crowe and McAdams race around Washington trying to prove a conspiracy theory you are right there with them processing information and piecing it together. Praise must go to the director, Kevin MacDonald, for this. He packs a lot into his scenes and every bit of information is possibly important, so his audience must be alert.

We are presented with an impressive cast that thankfully delivers a strong ensemble performance. Crowe, McAdams and Mirren all bounce off each other really well, convincing as a news team. Crowe is in his element as the brash, rude but inherently good Cal McAffrey. McAdams seems to excel in roles that portray her as on the edge of damsel in distress and grizzled heroine. Mirren commands the screen whenever she is featured. A true legend of the movie business.
Ben Affleck reminds us (ironic, as this was released in 2009) that he is a good actor. He may be known by a new generation as Batman, but his true talent is playing wealthy, egotistical justice fighters…wait a second.

Ben Affleck in State of Play (2009)
Batfleck!

If you like mystery movies that take you on wild journeys up until the last moments of the film then this is for you. Information is given to the audience piecemeal so that we do not know who the true mastermind of the whole thing is until the very end.
There are a few tense scenes where Crowe is on the run from a military trained assassin but those action scenes are few and far between. Rather than getting our kicks through violent fights and chases through crowded streets, we are out of breath and delighted when our protagonists have a sudden brainwave based off of an innocuous comment made by somebody three scenes ago. Yes, it is that type of movie.

State of Play is on Netflix Ireland. Check it out and I promise you won’t be disappointed if you like mystery, crime or thriller movies.

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