Written by: Tom Hardej, Special to CC2K
Rachel McAdams single-handedly brings down a fake DC newspaper in Kevein MacDonald's new thriller.
At the very end of State of Play, and I'm not giving anything away here, Rachel McAdams' character hits send on a cover story for the Washington Globe newspaper, and then as the credits roll, we see how the front page goes from her computer, to a negative, to printed, packaged up, and out the door. It becomes clear at that point, if not before, what the movie is really about. You may think it's a tense political thriller, since that's how it’s being sold. What it is actually is a love letter to the dying newspaper industry, rebelling against new media. And, yes, there’s no way getting around it: this review you’re reading is in fact being written for the said new media.
The movie is about Cal McAffey (Russell Crowe), an old time newspaperman, an investigative reporter, and Della Frye (McAdams), a young, doe-eyed blogger for the Globe. They team up when it seems they’re investigating an intersecting story. McAffey is reporting on a mysterious shooting of two seemingly innocents, one a pizza deliveryman. Frye is writing about Sonia Baker, a Congressional aid, who reportedly committed suicide on the DC Metro platform, and who incidentally was having an affair with her boss, Congressman Stephen Collins (Ben Affleck), who—get this—was McAffey’s college roommate. Baker’s death was no suicide, and it quickly becomes clear that her past was sorted and mixed up in the same corporation she was investigating on Collins’ team. The plot is convoluted, and I think it’s trying to be too many things at once—a murder mystery, a political thriller, and indignation of corporate scandal. But in none too subtle terms, the movie never fails to remind you what it wants to be—a hard-boiled story glorifying investigative reporters. It wants to be All the President’s Men. The bad guys have their office in the Watergate, and there are even articles about “Deep Throat” up at McAffey’s desk. And if the movie weren’t trying so hard, I would even say that it succeeds. There were parts of it that felt very real, and it’s definitely a pulse-pounding thriller. I was genuinely on the edge of my seat through parts in the middle. We’ve just seen this movie before. Maybe it was in All the President’s Men or even in co-screenwriter Tony Gilroy’s other film, Michael Clayton. And in a movie like this, it should all come down to the ending. But here, the ending is predictable, and quiet even.
The acting of course is top rate, because how could it not be with this cast? I won’t say it’s Russell Crowe’s best outing, and yet even then he’s better than most. Rachel McAdams is charming as always, and Robin Wright Penn gives a really heartfelt performance as Collins’ suffering wife. Helen Mirren is absolutely perfect as the newspaper’s publisher, but then she always is. The nice surprise, though, is Ben Affleck. In a lot of other movies he’s been out acted, but here he holds his own. He’s been on a roll lately, and I think we haven’t yet seen the best from him.
And now as I end things here, I will hit send. This review will go off into cyberspace, but there won’t be a montage showing you how. That’s the thing about the internet. It’s quicker than that. And while, a blogger needed to reach out to a “real” reporter to get her story in the movie, here you’ll have to just listen to my doe-eyed opinions and decide for yourself.
State of Play: 7/10