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State of Play

Film Review by Dean Duncan Jun 17, 2015

Making protagonist Ben Affleck the eventual (though contradictory) villain takes State of Play into Warren Beatty territory (Shampoo, Bulworth), and would seem to prefigure what he did with and in the subsequent Argo. The complexities in this adaptation—from a BBC original—are not only consistent with the post Le Carré political thriller, but with the dispiriting realities of international politics themselves.

The good guys, for all the good they attempt or even accomplish, are still, finally human. Deeply flawed in other words, deeply limited. So it is that either their mindsets or their moral lapses will eventually lead to some measure of failure. A measure of failure can still add up to a sort of success. Not here though. Having the journalist/Russell Crowe character navigate and mediate this moral ground brings to mind the themes of a film like In the Line of Fire. The institutions of power are so bad that the world is no good. The only hope that remains, and it is a real hope, is that honourable people will keep things afloat. The rehabilitation of the blogger/Rachel McAdams character illustrates that thesis. State of Play and stories like it render bold criticisms, often in bold outlines. At the same time they maintain some faith in humanity, and some give in the portrayal of individual humans.

Here’s a strong scenario, then, twisty but with reason/not too much, some nice ideas, good lines and performances. (Bateman!) Always grateful for smart commercial films.