Imagine you are going on a new rollercoaster for the first time. You sit down, your heart starts pumping a little bit, then the ride chugs up a really steep incline right before the HUGE drop - your heart is really going at this point, and you are about to shit yourself. Then nothing. Welcome to State of Play.
State of Play is a corporate crime thriller, directed by Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland), starring Russell Crowe, the extremely cute Rachel McAdams, and with Ben Affleck and Helen Mirren. They also splashed in a touch of Jason Bateman, and a pinch of Jeff Daniels. This movie was based on a BBC mini-series of the same name, but instead of being set in London, our movie is set in Washington, D.C. The three main themes the movie tries to hit are the death of the newspaper, even the good politicians are politicians, and the evils of hiring private companies as defense contractors for military use and for domestic affairs. Not bad so far, right? To be honest, I was thoroughly entertained up until the final twist of the story was unraveled, and I've got to assume they added it after the story was finished.
We follow a really thick story that starts with a romantic scandal linking Congressman Stephen Collins (Affleck) to his dead assistant. Cal McAffrey (Crowe) is a rough, genuine journalist for the Washington Globe, has a close, personal relationship with Collins, so he starts investigating what happened to the assistant; McAffrey is concurrently working on a story about a seemingly unrelated double homicide. In addition, Congressman Collins is part of a Congressional oversight committee, investigating an alleged monopoly that a privately-owned defense company is trying to sneak past the government for a huge defense contract. Della Frye (McAdams), who is the young, "blogger" journalist for the Washington Globe, teams up with McAffrey to explain the story behind the romantic scandal.
With every new layer to the film, you are continually sucked in. McAffrey is the seasoned journalist, so he has connections everywhere he needs them, to get evidence, get witness testimony, and piece things together better than the police. The love scandal turns into the driving force of the film, but as the dots start connecting, we see that it is a small piece of the bigger puzzle. Both McAffrey and Frye stumble upon leads - both also being put in harm's way to get the facts - and the intensity level just keeps rising as we are excited to see how they are going to solve this giant clusterfuck.
State of Play was suspenseful, and engaging; it was a mix between Michael Clayton and The Pelican Brief, but it just fell short at the end. Of course the acting was spot on, with compelling dialogue, and a really nice pace to a very robust story. Everything was going smooth, aside from a couple obvious Hollywood conventions to help the story along, and then they fucked it at the end.
Worth watching, but expect to be disappointed.