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State of Play


Stars: Russell Crowe, Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams, Helen Mirren, Robin Wright Penn, Jeff Daniels, Jason Bateman, Viola Davis

Director: Kevin MacDonald

Though I'm not sure I was able to link up all of its clues, this is a solid and cleverly-constructed thriller based on the BBC-TV series of 2003 connecting the worlds of newspapers, politics and shady assassins, with the locale successfully transferred from London to Washington.

A female Congressional aide falls beneath an underground train; shortly afterwards a petty thief and a passer-by are gunned down, seemingly over photos of the aide and her Congressman boss, Stephen Collins (Affleck), in the throes of an affair.

Shaggy-haired, hardened reporter Cal (an unshaven and dishevelled Crowe), put under the cosh by his termagant editor (Mirren), finds himself working in tandem with novice reporter Della (McAdams) to produce a story.

Collins is an old friend of Cal, who has also had an affair with the politician's wife (Penn), now faced with her husband's own infidelity. Meanwhile, Collins is out to nail Pointcorps, a mega-corporation earning millions from death and destruction in Iraq and Afghanistan. So is he the victim of a set-up?

The devil here is in the detail and it's engrossing all the way through, as Cal and Della both survive assassins' bullets while others are not so lucky. The final twist is fiendishly clever and difficult to see coming.

The Washington Globe's atmosphere is so sweatily authentic you can almost smell the newsprint. Crowe, Affleck and McAdams are on the mark; Mirren is less convincing as the editor. Now, if someone can tell me what significance the photos still have in view of later developments, or how Collins' wife figures in it all, or how the case could be proved against the ultimate culprit, or why people fleeing from gunmen always run up dark alleys, I'll be a completely happy bunny.

David Quinlan

USA 2009. UK Distributor: Universal. Technicolor.
118 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 18 Apr 2009