State Of Play review

How does the US remake of the terrific UK TV mini series fare? Glen checks out State Of Play...

I’m sure you’re all aware how this is a remake of the critically acclaimed BBC series of the same name, which now sees the story take place in Washington as opposed to London. A bag snatcher is shot dead in an alley and the following morning a research assistant for a congressman falls under a metro train. Can these events, that initially appear unrelated, be connected in some way?

Seasoned reporter, Cal McCaffery (Crowe), is reporting on the death of the bag snatcher in the alley. But when his college buddy, Congressman Stephen Collins (Affleck), breaks down in tears in front of cameras, it raises questions as to the nature of Collins’ relationship with his assistant. This sets bloggers in overdrive and rumours circulate about their affair and how Collins broke off the relationship leaving her heartbroken, which led her to commit suicide at the metro station. McCaffery looks to protect the reputation of his friend and get to the truth whilst facing pressure from his editor (Helen Mirren) to provide a sexy angle on the story that will shift units.

Crowe’s McCaffery is portrayed as a dying breed of journalist. He’s someone who believes in the process of getting his hands dirty and exploring his numerous, and often amazingly convenient, array of contacts, enabling him to get closer to the truth. Which is a time-consuming process, meaning that he’s not as prolific as the popular bloggers on the online section of the newspaper, who seem to value the scoop over facts, churning out numerous stories a day, but who prove popular based on the number of people who read their articles.

The most popular of these bloggers is Rachel McAdams’ Della Frye who is one of those who’s eager to delve deeper into the story of Collins’ relationship with his assistant, but faces resistance when she approaches McCaffery for some more details on Collins. McCaffery later takes Frye under his wing showing her his old school methods of journalism that sets the pair on the trail to the truth uncovering a conspiracy that goes to the heart of government.

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The casting is near perfect; Crowe, particularly, excels in his portrayal of McCaffery. If there is a weak link, it’s Affleck as Congressman Stephen Collins – it’s not as though Affleck’s performance is particularly poor, far from it. It’s just that it’s a struggle to imagine Affleck’s Collins and Crowe’s McCaffery being at college at the same time. So it’s more of a criticism of the casting than the performance.

Many of the highlights come from the wonderful performances put in by the female cast members: Helen Mirren’s portrayal as the paper’s editor stands up there with the quality of performances she’s given over the years, and McAdams excels in her role as Della Frye.

There’s also good turns from a lot of the supporting cast – Jason Bateman is wonderfully sleazy (“What’s in your gay-rage?”) as PR man Dominic Foy and I’m sure everyone will recognise Brennan Brown (yes, him from the Orange ads). I initially found his presence distracting – half-expecting mentions of mobiles etc, although there are plenty of those to be seen so this must have appeased him – but, as with the rest of the supporting cast, he put in an excellent performance.

The quality continues behind the camera. The script, written by Matthew Michael Carnahan (The Kingdom & Lions For Lambs) and Tony Gilroy, (the Bourne trilogy) and direction, by Kevin Macdonald (The Last King Of Scotland), are top notch.

The story progresses at such a pace that there’s never a dull moment – each scene flows into another that’s as equally exciting and intriguing as the one that proceeded it. One minor fault around this is that there seems to be a frantic attempt to tie up loose ends in the final 20 minutes, so the ending seems a little rushed. This doesn’t detract from the overall quality of the movie, though, and I would thoroughly recommend this beautifully realised thriller to anyone.

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4 out of 5