State of Play

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Posted April 16, 2009 in Film

The death of the newspaper industry is the backdrop for this conspiracy thriller about a hard-and-fast reporter (Russell Crowe) who uncovers a link between a Halliburton stand-in, a congressman (Ben Affleck), a train track suicide (Maria Thayer) and a random-seeming shooting that left one junkie dead and a pizza delivery boy in a coma. Adapted from a British miniseries by a team of three that includes the Bourne franchise’s Tony Gilroy, this is an unrepentantly mature suspense flick; there’re no jokes, no breasts and no explosions. Kevin McDonald (Last King of Scotland) directs with a voyeuristic gloom.  Even as the secrets spill out, the sense is of a world compressing, not unraveling. Instead of rich characters, we’re given touchstones: a family values-thumping congressman (Jeff Daniels), a shallow PR heel (Jason Bateman), a spunky cub reporter (Rachel McAdams) and a battling newspaper editor (Helen Mirren). The prestige cast makes this film feel like An Event, though its enemies and worldview are such standard stuff, it’s less a smart and deep drama than a clever trick where the audiences doesn’t care about why evil happened, only how. (Amy Nicholson)

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