State of Play
Political thrillers are a finicky bunch. Although one of my favorite genres, I can list the number of political thrillers I actually enjoy on one hand. I don’t know if it’s the fake names and corporations or the convoluted plots, but it seems like all of the political thrillers in recent memory have fallen into various pitfalls that led to their eventual doom. So although I was excited for STATE OF PLAY, I kept my expectations very low. After all, the odds were against this film being enjoyable.
However, it turns out that STATE OF PLAY is actually an intelligent, intense and exciting conspiracy film that manages to develop some great characters, helped by the wonderful performances from a talented cast. When one of the aids for Rep. Stephen Collins (Ben Affleck) dies mysteriously on the subway, it’s revealed that the aid and Collins were having an affair. Seeking a friend and in need of help, Collins visits his old college roommate, Cal McAffrey (Russell Crowe). Cal is a reporter, covering a double homicide case, but when fellow reporter Della Frye (Rachel McAdams) starts covering the Collins story, Cal realizes that the two cases might be linked. This sets everyone on a trail of lies, mysteries and cover-ups where no one is safe.
The trick with movies like this is to keep everything in check. With a complex plot and several characters, the tendency is to leave someone behind or get wrapped up in stories that have little to no impact on the overall plot. Thankfully, director Kevin Macdonald kept his focus and managed to weave a complex story skillfully enough that every moment of screen time was used appropriately. I never felt bored or frustrated with what was transpiring. The film followed a logical path and all of the events leading up to the climax made sense. It also turns out that the story was interesting without being preachy or over the top, like many political films tend to be.
Unfortunately, the numerous characters and multiple conspiracies led to a few plot holes, especially at the end. It felt like there was an attempt to add a twist ending that was unnecessary. The unraveling of the conspiracy was enough to make the film worthwhile and entertaining, we didn’t really need an added twist. It wasn’t distracting or anything, it’s just the film had done very well with what the story it already had going that adding the “twist” was a little distracting.
Aside from an unnecessary twist at the end, the film was very enjoyable. It was nice to see Ben Affleck back in action. Despite the Bennifer debacle and the countless box-office bombs, Ben is a charming actor and can really nail a role when given the opportunity. He had lesser of a role in this, but he did great with what he had. The cast all around was outstanding and Macdonald did a commendable job of getting the most from his talented cast.