Movie Review: State of Play (2009)

StateOfPlayCroweThumbby Brad Nelson
Reminiscent of All the President’s Men, this movie follows a couple newspaper reporters hot on the trail in the aftermath of two professional-like murders. The convoluted trail leads to high-stakes Washington power politics where “stop the presses” is the byline.

Russell Crowe and his hair play a hippish, DC-savvy reporter who has a few intrigues of his own. Ben Affleck (really…I do love this guy) rolls out of bed, drives to the movie studio, and plays – wait for it – Ben Affleck. (He could at least try to come up with a different persona.) Affleck “plays” Congressman Stephen Collins who heads a committee that is investigating a corporation to whom the American military has outsourced some of its action.

Actually, the intrigue isn’t all that convoluted. (More about this later.) The story unfolds in a believable fashion and in a manner that isn’t too much to absorb at one time. I sat watching this movie nodding my head thinking “Gee…I understand what’s going on for a change.” So many movies either throw too much at you or what they do throw at you doesn’t make much sense (or both). It’s easy to get plot fatigue in which soon you are simply begging for action, gunplay, and car chases just to break the monotony because long ago you forgot what the movie was all about.

State of Play does a very good job laying the plot out and involving you in it. Of interest as well is the cast. Helen Mirren plays (well, let’s be honest) Helen Mirren – or, to be more specific – she plays Det. Supt. Jane Tennison from Prime Suspect, the hard-bitten, man-like woman in a man’s world (woman in a man-like woman’s world?) Whatever. But because I love Helen Mirren, that works for me.

Jeff Daniels plays Charles Rangel, or near enough to the guy. He’s like a page torn out of today’s headlines. Rachel McAdams plays Della Frye. She’s nothing special, but is a serviceable warm body to play second fiddle to Crowe and his hair. I wouldn’t call her the co-star because I’m not so sure that honor doesn’t belong to the hair.

All in all, a pleasing who-done-it (or who done her). Its one major flaw for a movie of this genre is the modern inability to tell a story without just one more twist. You watch a movie like this and know what’s going to happen not by the action on the screen, but by how much time is left in it.

In this one, things seemed to be all wrapped up and yet there were about 20 minutes left in the movie. Hmm. There couldn’t be a couple plot twists coming, could there? Or do the credits just run on that long?

State of Play – like many other movies written in the last ten years – is like an automobile “dieseling” after a long, smooth ride. It just sometimes won’t shut itself off cleanly. And neither will State of Play as we’re apparently supposed to be out-of-our-seats amazed that the filmmakers have offered just one more twist. Who could have seen that coming? I’d love it if they’d come to the end with about 30 minutes left just to keep you guessing and then maybe use that extra time for a music video or something.

Oh, and if you ever want to make sure someone dies, just put them under “special” security at the hospital. Have you ever seen anyone actually protected when that happens? Besides a few eyeroll moments such as this (as well as the run-on ending), State of Play is a serviceable who-done-it. I give it 3.1 Free Bill Cosby’s out of 5. No…wait…I give it 3.2 Russell-Crowe’s-Hair out of . . . no…wait…the final rating is really . . .

A petty thief is gunned down in an alley and a Congressman’s assistant falls in front of a subway – two seemingly unrelated deaths. But not to wisecracking, brash newspaper reporter Cal McAffrey who spies a conspiracy waiting to be uncovered. With a turbulent past connected to the Congressman and the aid of ambitious young rookie writer Della Frye, Cal begins uprooting clues that lead him to a corporate cover-up full of insiders, informants, and assassins. But as he draws closer to the truth, the relentless journalist must decide if it’s worth risking his life and selling his soul to get the ultimate story. Written by The Massie Twins •  More»


Available on DVD (used, $0.01), Blu Ray (new, $7.99), or Instant Video ($2.99 rental) from


Brad Nelson

About Brad Nelson

I like books, nature, politics, old movies, Ronald Reagan (you get sort of a three-fer with that one), and the founding ideals of this country. We are the Shining City on the Hill — or ought to be. However, our land has been poisoned by Utopian aspirations and feel-good bromides. Both have replaced wisdom and facts.
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4 Responses to Movie Review: State of Play (2009)

  1. pst4usa says:

    Your’e killing me Brad, I have to know, what is the final rating?

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Thanks for the link, Pat. I really appreciate informed and thoughtful people such as yourself passing on this good stuff for others to enjoy and benefit from. I wish others would do so then we could assemble the best of the best…and Bill Whittle certainly fits the bill in that regard…no pun intended…well, maybe.

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