Combustible Celluloid
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With: Russell Crowe, Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams, Helen Mirren, Robin Wright Penn, Jason Bateman, Jeff Daniels, Michael Berresse, Harry Lennix, Josh Mostel, Michael Weston, Barry Shabaka Henley, Viola Davis, David Harbour, Sarah Lord, Tuck Milligan, Stephen Park, Brennan Brown, Maria Thayer, Wendy Makkena, Zoe Lister Jones
Written by: Matthew Michael Carnahan, Tony Gilroy, Billy Ray, based on the BBC series created by Paul Abbott
Directed by: Kevin Macdonald
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some violence, language including sexual references, and brief drug content
Running Time: 127
Date: 04/17/2009

State of Play (2009)

3 Stars (out of 4)

The Rest of the Story

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Based on a six-hour BBC mini-series from 2003, the new State of Play is the best newspaper/journalism movie since Shattered Glass (2003), though it's diluted with some standard issue Hollywood thriller elements, especially during its final ten minutes. Russell Crowe is excellent as Washington Globe reporter Cal McAffrey, who starts his day looking into a double shooting. At the same time a pretty redhead named Sonia (Maria Thayer) dies under a subway train. Sonia worked for Cal's best friend -- his old college roommate -- Congressman Stephen Collins (Ben Affleck), and it comes out that they were having an affair. Soon enough, Cal finds a connection between the initial shootings and Sonia, and it all leads up to a huge corporate conspiracy involving a money-generating, private military contractor called PointCorp. Rachel McAdams plays Della Frye, a blogger at the struggling paper, who works with Cal on the story and clashes with Cal's old-fashioned, sturdy, print reporting methods. Screenwriter Billy Ray, who made Shattered Glass, helps capture all the exciting details of reporting and working on newspapers (even if a story of this magnitude doesn't exactly come along every day). His co-writer was Tony Gilroy -- who made the very good, brainy thriller Michael Clayton -- and together they make a winning blend of intelligence and thrills. Refreshingly, when coming face-to-face with a dangerous killer, Cal doesn't try to save the day or become a hero; he cowers and hides. (It's more important to survive to write the story.) In the midst of all this, the characters actually manage to come to life, even if they only have a few minutes of screen time. Helen Mirren is one of the standouts as the paper's acerbic, frustrated editor-in-chief. The film's director is Kevin Macdonald, who knows a thing or two about journalism, having made several documentaries and won an Oscar in 2000 (for One Day in September). Also available on [See also my longer review at]

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