I have been wanting to see this movie since the trailers first caught my attention last winter; having finally viewed it last night, State of Play did not disappoint my expectations.
Russell Crowe stars in this film as Cal McAffrey, a Washington, D.C. journalist from a bygone age, driving an old car and typing on an older computer, valuing legwork and accuracy in reporting in an age where getting the story first is more important than getting it right. Acting alongside stellar performances from Rachel McAdams, Ben Affleck, Helen Mirren, and more, the cast of the movie carries but does not steal from the story.
And what an intricate story it is. In order to fully understand the plotlines, I feel like I would have to watch the movie two or three more times. But at its core is two seemingly unconnected deaths that turn out to be threads of a conspiracy that reaches deep into the heart of the Washington political and military scene.
Perhaps my favorite part of State of Play is the starring role it gave to the city of Washington, DC. Most movies that feature DC stick pretty closely to the occasional shot of the Capitol, the White House, and the monuments. State of Play goes significantly farther than that. Viewers familiar with Washington will recognize that the opening scene is shot in Georgetown, near the intersection of M Street and Wisconsin Ave; they will smile at the inclusion of DC landmark restaurant Ben's Chili Bowl on U Street; and they may be able to note that the menu on Cal McAffrey's fridge is from Dupont Circle's Kramerbooks/Afterwords Cafe.
Current events-aware viewers will also recognize the movie's Washington Globe for what it is-- a thinly concealed Washington Post. Other thinly veiled references include frequent allusions to the Watergate office complex and McAffrey's use of a shadowy informant as a source on the inside of PointCorp, a private military contractor that is seemingly taking over the entire US Homeland Security operation (obviously meant to represent Blackwater, the real-life contractor that came under so much criticism in the last couple of years for their conduct in Iraq).
For politicos, DC lovers, and movie aficionados alike, State of Play is a thriller that will not disappoint in its capacity to engage your attention and keep you gripped for several hours.
(For another review of State of Play, be sure to check out my friend Bryan's review over here at his blog.)