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Monday Review: State of Play


'State of Play' states it well

I'm a Washington DC local so when film comes along that has been entirely filmed in DC I get a little nervous. Most of the time the nation's capitol is butchered geographically and a large monument somehow gets blown up or at least run around inside of despite the fact that it would never happen that way. It also usually appears that the city is completely comprised of monuments and the White House, when indeed there is far more to DC. How refreshing then that State of Play captures the entire capitol and incredibly well.

Before I get into the juice I must immediately give credit to Rodrigo Prieto for turning DC, a city usually captured in bright and glorifying shots, into a dark, mysterious and suspense laden world. There's a particular shot near the end of the film at the idyllic Kennedy Center that changes a building I have always thought of as peaceful and serene into an oppressive slab of stone, representing the overarching dominance of a corrupt government. Possibly Prieto's cinematography will only stand out to a DC native such as myself, but everyone should really try to appreciate what he does in the film.

It isn't just his cinematography that is refreshing about the movie though. For far too long modern day thrillers have elicited eye rolls and snores from a large chunk of the audience, and they have been well deserved. State of Play deserves your attention. The story of reporters Cal McAffrey (Russell Crowe) and Della Frye (Rachel McAdams) and their quest to uncover an evil corporation's murder of a young aid, who was Cal's best friend's, Congressman Stephen Collins (Ben Affleck), mistress sounds like classic suspense thriller, but the story has so many twist and turns and is handled so well that it keeps you on the edge of your seat and not falling back into it.

It also helps that it isn't just about catching the bad guy. The movie tackles family ideals, friendship and corruption really well and, more importantly for a thriller, does it in a taught and dramatic fashion. Even more interesting is the back story of the dying newspaper industry. Much of what hampers Cal and Della in their search for the truth is that the truth doesn't't sell papers anymore, and while the film offers up a highly idealistic look at how bloggers and reporters can all work together, it is nice that it offers up something at all. The death knolls of newspapers are sounding and until now Hollywood hadn't exploited the fact to its fullest.

It never hurts a film when the cast is perfect either. Crowe is back in the saddle of a roll we want to see him in and McAdams is right in step with the rest of the high powered cast. Affleck is quickly becoming one of my favorite actors. His role in the film is a bit smaller, but it packs as much punch as any and he nails it. The only casting miss was Jason Bateman, whose character comes in late in the film and feels very out of place; almost as if the character was written around Bateman and not the film's story or feeling.

This is too bad because it is all about feeling in the movie. The oppression and tension are palatable for much of the film. Far more enjoyable and thought provoking than most of what you can see in the theater at the moment, State of Play is that rare thriller that actually thrills.

(Get me paid)
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About Matthew Razakone of us since 2:04 PM on 04.03.2009

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