I admit that I was not aware going in to see Russell Crowe’s latest, State of Play, that it was based on a British TV show. Being that I enjoy British TV, it sort of makes sense now that I really, almost unaccountably, enjoyed the movie version.
State of Play is a political thriller to match them all, with Russell Crowe playing hard-bitten print journalist Cal McAffrey, your classic “white knight” sort of journalist dedicated to the truth…at all costs. Kind of the Spider Jerusalem of his era, he’s joined by Rachel McAdams as Della Frye, a blogger handling part of the electronic side of things for the Washington D.C. newspaper both work for. McAffrey and Frye tracking down the circumstances following the recent death of a Congressman’s mistress about to start a series of hearings into a paramilitary government contractor called PointCorp. As McAffrey and Frye continue to follow the various disparate threads, they begin to see a much greater plot forming almost before their very eyes–the sort of plot that could very well destroy several careers and do inestimable damage to the United States government itself.
For those of you who study the current political landscape, you’ll likely notice at least some “ripped from the headlines” sort of incidents, including a very easy connection between fictional PointCorp and current bugaboo Blackwater (who, ironically enough, recently underwent rebranding possibly due to the fact that everyone associated the name Blackwater with undisciplined, unaccountable mercenaries who shot at American citizens in New Orleans and did who knows how much damage in Iraq.), you’re more than welcome to pat yourselves on the back at this point. Good catch.
But this is part of what makes State of Play such an interesting film. Yes, it’s your class-X political thriller, but there are so many elements of plausibility included in the narrative that it takes on a life of its own. Change a few names around and we might well be looking at something that will happen tomorrow, or next week, or next month. It’s absolutely plausible. And, given the prevalence of blogging that’s sprung up worldwide—nobody’s laughing at the idea of “citizen-journalists” any more—and in a time when newspapers are going under whilst blogs are flourishing due to the massive disparities in production costs, it’s kind of ennobling to see a blogger like Delia Frye suddenly in a position to make a serious difference, even IF it’s only with the help of a hard-bitten mentor of the print journalism game.
Even better, we’ll also be exposed to intradepartmental bickering at the newspapers, as they struggle to keep up the old ways of print—slow, careful, precise and well supported by fact—when cost containment virtually DEMANDS the new ways of electronic media—fast, dirty, loaded with opinion and commentary, and able to churn out copy in a rapid fashion to keep the short attention span engaged.
Truly, there are several great conflicts going on in State of Play, and we’ll be able to follow almost all of them to at least reasonably satisfying ends. In fact, State of Play itself is a highly satisfying thriller, carefully paced, well put together, and ready to take on the big leagues. Quite a jump from the old days of TV serials, and I’m glad they made the effort. State of Play is easily worth your time and your movie dollars.