State of Play
State of Play ends with the triumphant writing of an article. Heart racing yet? Behind the keyboard is owlish veteran “Washington Globe” journo Cal (Crowe, in righteous schlump mode). By his side: hottie blogger-turned-cub-reporter, Della (McAdams), and Cal’s Murdochian editor-in-chief (Mirren), finally in possession of some ethics. All wait breathlessly. Cal, obviously blessed with the gift that allows him to compose publishable copy in front of a quiet audience, stands. Graciously, he lets Della press SEND. And there was never any corruption again.
The movie is one of those extra-large tubs of lefty political popcorn: empty calories but delicious nonetheless, especially if you sneak in your own ice-cold can of paranoia. State of Play’s script originates from a sprawling 2003 BBC miniseries, now punched up by a dream team of American tough-talk specialists, including Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton) and Billy Ray (Shattered Glass). The result takes us from Clintonian sex scandal—a young congressional star (Affleck) is outed as unfaithful after his sexy aide turns up dead—to Bush-era defense-contract bidding and greed. “It’s the Muslim-terror gold rush,” one spook purrs.
All of the skullduggery is given a bluish, brittle patina by Macdonald, obviously influenced by thrillers like All the President’s Men (why else would you shoot a scene in a dark parking garage and another at the Watergate?). You have to wonder if we’re in for years of such corrective conspiracy cinema. The freshest thing about State of Play isn’t the film’s belated journalistic conscience—hey, media: we can be heroes!—but its prickly antagonism between Web-centric Della and chili-cheeseburger-chomping Cal. That too will seem quaint in time. Oh wait, it already is.