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The Warsaw Voice » Culture » June 17, 2009
Film review
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State of Play
June 17, 2009 By Witold Żygulski   
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Kevin Macdonald mostly made movies for TV until 2006, when he captivated theater audiences with the political drama The Last King of Scotland, set in the ghastly reality of Uganda under the dictatorship of Idi Amin. Macdonald's newest offering, State of Play, is a political thriller in which the director attempts to uncover the mechanisms that govern the mass media. The end result is a piece of decent cinema, as State of Play is pleasant to watch, delivering clearly delineated characters and actors who convince in their roles. The only problem could be the plot, which gets a little too twisted at times, revealing some minor plot holes that fans of this genre may find irritating. The twists get a little tiring in the second half of the movie in particular and the surprise ending does not really connect with the rest of the movie well. Still, at two hours the movie does not feel too long at all.

Cal McAffrey (Russell Crowe) is a seasoned reporter with a talent for sniffing out information, even when it is classified. He knows probably every police officer in town and everybody likes him. One day McAffrey gets a scoop about two mysterious baffling murders, the victims being a small-time junkie thief and a random cyclist. As he gets on the case, McAffrey has no idea that he might be onto something really big. But then there is a third corpse, this time making the headlines coast to coast. A freak accident in the subway kills a woman who was an assistant to Stephen Collins (Ben Affleck), an influential Congressman who happens to be McAffrey's pal from college days. Collins is now in a lot of trouble, because he was having an affair with the victim, who most likely was privy to the inner workings of a Congress committee investigation into PointCorp, a giant security corporation known for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. But would the corporation go so far as to kill somebody to discredit a political adversary?

Working on the case involving his former college buddy, McAffrey is assigned an associate in the form of Della Frye (Rachel McAdams-Red Eye), the editor of an online edition of his paper, a project McAffrey colorfully describes as upchucking online. His partner might be a generation younger than him, but he will need to accept her help to solve the puzzle and to persuade his domineering female boss Cameron Lynne (Helen Mirren-The Queen, National Treasure 2) not to give in to pressure from the newspaper's owners and print the results of his investigation.

Crowe is one of just a few actors in history to garner three Academy Award nominations in a row, for The Insider, Gladiator and A Beautiful Mind (he won an Oscar for Gladiator, which many say was actually his weakest role of the three). In State of Play, he rivets viewers' attention as usual and is clearly a major asset for the movie.

The career of Ben Affleck, in turn, has been far from glamorous in the last couple of years. After a string of successful movies in the late 1990s and the early years of the following decade (Dogma, Pearl Harbor, The Sum of All Fears), his career took a plunge and Affleck has more frequently appeared in damp squibs such as Gigli and Daredevil. His most recent memorable role was a heavy-drinking Hollywood has-been trying to make ends meet as a gigolo in Hollywoodland from 2006. In State of Play, Affleck is back in slightly better form, although his face suggests that he is either extremely tired of living or has undergone botched plastic surgery.
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