Friday, 8 May 2009

enjoyed State of Play before Chianti refuel

State of Play
I enjoyed watching 'State of Play'. A good and mainly tightly scripted conspiracy thriller about newspapers, relationships, politics, police against morality questions around friendship, self serving ends and ways to derive 'truth'.

There's some structural conventions, like in a good blues song, to make it easy to absorb - a short opening scene during which someone is eliminated from the plot. Helicopters, aerial swoops around skylines, CIA Langley, clickety clackety noises and a special synthesizer sound reserved for the prowling man with the big gun.

A scruffy metropolitan Saab-driving reporter (Russell Crowe) whom all of the cops know, eye-candy cub-reporter accomplice (Rachel McAdams) who writes the 'Capitol Hill' blogs for the paper(chalk cheese etc). Tough Brit scene-stealer editor trying to sell copy to stop the newly acquired paper from toppling (Helen Mirren). An entourage of only semi-named cops who are mostly a step behind the wily reporter's investigation centred on his ex room-buddy senator (Ben Affleck with a cheesy Philadelphia accent).

Snappily paced, with a few longer scenes to give time to breathe a little. Some settings confused my sense of the 2009 period - I found myself checking a car date sticker in one scene to be sure. The cluttered newsrooms full of paper were for me more evocative of 70s movies than a 2009 paperless workplace, but hey, maybe the press still do it the old way.

With references to Watergate Building (been there!) whizzing around Washington (ditto) and Georgetown (yup), there was a combination of homage to other reporting stories and perhaps just things to make it easy to fix the location for a global audience.

By random co-incidence I'd also watched 'Body of Lies' a few days ago, with Crowe playing against Leonardo di Caprio (another good popcorn film) and it was interesting to see the way Crowe can change his whole appearance and demeanour for the different roles. Less so with Affleck, where I thought it more a good casting choice for him as the neat but flawed senator.

And back to the blues song formula, one hopes in a film like this that certain things will happen; the genre needs the underground car park scene, helicopters, convergence of the unconnected, the important twist when you think you know what has happened. Its all there.

BUT. I gather this was adapted from a BBC screenplay produced some years ago. I'm wondering in hindsight if there's still enough of the original plot arc there to have limited some of the choices from what a modern rebuild could do? I'm guessing it was a mini-series, which could explain why I thought there was an end in sight around 2/3 of the way through (end of episode?).

Also the blog/new media savvy gal with the faux 1940's columnist name Della Frye, could have driven more into the plot. Don't just give Crowe a Blackberry, do something more interesting with the social media. Instead, Crowe ends up instructing McAdams and Affleck on spin management. A modernist twist here could have been more fun.

That's me being a tad over critical though; was this a film to watch before drifting along to an Italian restaurant for some good conversation over a glass of wine?

Will I watch it again when its a DVD or on Sky?

For sure.

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