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PCR #473 (Vol. 10, No. 16). This edition is for the week of April 13--19, 2009.

This Week's PCR
Movie Review
"State of Play"

Movie review by:
Michael A. Smith

Movies are rated 0 to 4 stars

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"State of Play"  by Mike Smith
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Starring: Russell Crowe, Ben Affleck and Helen Mirren
Directed by: Kevin Macdonald
Rated: PG 13
Running Time: 2 hours 7 minutes

A rainy night in the nation’s capital. Suddenly a figure dashes by, obviously running for his life. He hides down a darkened alley but to no avail. The sound of a silenced pistol is heard, and our runner runs no more. On his way home a pizza delivery guy on his bicycle sees the shooting. He’s seen too much.

And so starts “State of Play,” a well crafted political thriller that’s one part “All the President’s Men” and one part “The Pelican Brief.” Stocked with a top notch cast and a smart script, “State of Play” will keep you on the edge of your seat until the final scene. Crowe stars as veteran reporter Cal McAffrey, who believes a good story is tracked down and researched properly. While looking into the two murders he crosses paths with Della Frye (Rachel McAdams), who is in charge of the on line political blog run by the paper. A young woman with ties to Congressman Stephen Collins (Affleck) has apparently committed suicide. Frye knows that McAffrey and Collins were one time college roommates and hopes he can provide some “inside” information. When it appears that the opening killings and the woman’s death could be related, the two team up to uncover a mystery that could rock the nation.

The hardest part about crafting a good political thriller is making sure the various twists and turns eventually end to a satisfactory ending. If you throw the audience too many red herrings they’ll quickly lose interest and not care about your heroes. “State of Play,” which is based on the multiple award winning 2003 BBC mini series that made Bill Nighy a star, has been adapted for the US by three writers who know their way around great political thrillers: Matthew Michael Carnahan (“Lions for Lambs”), Billy Ray (“Breach”) and Tony Gilroy (“Michael Clayton,” the “Bourne” films). As a close cinema cousin of “All the President’s Men,” McAffrey and Frye become the Woodward and Bernstein of the Internet era. Even the papers’ editor, played by Helen Mirren, channels Ben Bradlee, begging someone, anyone to go on record. Of course, even a great script can fail unless you’ve got the talent to sell it. Crowe and company inhabit their characters, taking you along on their rides. Top-notch supporting work is also turned in by Robin Wright Penn, who plays Affleck’s wife, and Jason Bateman as a fancy Washington public relations genius who learns about tricks he’s never thought of. If I have any complaint about the film it’s that there seems to be one layer too many of mystery involved in the plot. Oh, and please, someone buy Ben Affleck a sandwich. He’s way too thin.

On a scale of zero to four stars I give “State of Play”

This week's movie review of "State of Play" is ©2009 by Michael A. Smith.  All graphics this page are creations of Nolan B. Canova, ©2009, all rights reserved. All contents of "Nolan's Pop Culture Review" are ©2009 by Nolan B. Canova.