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Well written and intriguing! And you can quote me on that!”

I had forgotten how fun a good murder thriller can be when done right. That perfect blend of character acting, focused storyline and interesting twists that makes State of Play a must see. Directed by Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland) and starring Russell Crowe, Ben Affleck, and Rachel McAdams it is more than just a political who-dun-it. I felt it a throwback to the notable newspaper films of the 70’s. Though a bit staged at times and agenda manipulative it still had the nuts and bolts to carry it through 2 hours without as much as a hiccup. The success is mainly due to the personable and comfortable acting of the main cast. 

When the mistress of a U.S. Congressman (Ben Affleck) dies of apparent suicide a Washington news reporter (Russell Crowe) begins to connect the dots between her, the government, and a private military group being investigated by the same Congressman. Crowe is spot on as the salty, unkempt, seasoned reporter. He is manipulative with everyone around him without being obvious about it. There is a certain subtle slyness to his character that I liked. When he grabs a young, up and coming news blogger (Rachel McAdams) to assist him it is an amusing contrast of journalistic styling. All without being campy or forced.   I appreciated the fact that they did not make this simply a rehashing of political affairs but instead let the dynamic of the newspaper world be the driving force.

The best moments in the film revolve around getting the story. As an audience member I found I was discovering the facts along with the characters and that seemed to engage me even more into the film. Surprising too is Ben Affleck as Congressman Collins. As Ben ages I can see him taking more and more of these characters on. There was always something about his romantic comedy roles that never set well with me. I think he is geared more for these type thrillers. Possibly it is due to him not having much to say or being in a supportive position. Whatever, it worked.  Helen Mirren pulled off her job as the head of the paper though at times she seemed to be uncomfortable with the hard nosed character. But being the amazing actress she is she stepped up and swung for the fences and most times hit the mark.  

State of Play is rated PG-13 for some violence, language including sexual references, and brief drug content. None of this was standout or abusive. Kudos to the writers for using just as much as was needed to move the story and develop the characters. Though a bit long and mentally adult it is safe for those 12 and up, though many youngsters will be bored to tears I am sure. Those of us who appreciate decent intrigue and a mentally absorbing storyline will find this an enjoyable time at the movies. I give it 3.75 out of 5 note pads. Engaging, well acted and only a few holes to trip you up. Go enjoy and let me know what you think.     

Matt Mungle (matt@mungleshow.com) (4/15/09) 

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Review copyright 2009 Mungleshow Productions. Used by Permission.

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