For a start, its star Russell Crowe’s interpretation of Cal McAffrey would look at home among the insouciant, long-haired mavericks of the 1970s. He’s the scruffy Washington Globe reporter whose relationship with school chum and ambitious congressman Ben Affleck becomes complicated as the latter becomes implicated in two hitherto unconnected murders.
Likewise, its director, the Brit Kevin Macdonald (‘The Last King of Scotland’), is more occupied with self-consciously reviving the paranoid newsdesk atmosphere of a number of ’70s conspiracy movies than with developing the script’s intriguing play on present-day credit-crunch anxieties and online/old-school hack rivalries.
That said, and despite the clichéd nature of much of the dialogue and the derivative thriller set-ups, ‘State of Play’ provides sufficient old-fashioned entertainment value to justify the ticket. It plays well as a newspaper movie, with some nice banter – including some enjoyably sharp jibes at the blogosphere – between the hardened professional ethics of McAffrey and the politically correct protestations of his ingénue hack partner Della Frye (a perky Rachel McAdams). Helen Mirren provides a ripe turn as a profane version of Tina Brown, and the ever radiant Robin Wright Penn makes a seductive McGuffin (or is she?). Macdonald’s handling of the material is confident,
if never inspired, and the film is ably shot by the talented Mexican DoP Rodrigo Prieto in widescreen.