You know a thriller is a good thriller when you feel you should watch it twice to make sense of it all. Such was the case for me with "State of Play." The first time I watched it I wasn't sure I really understood what happened, so I watched it again to make sure. With an action movie that would be considered a weakness, but thrillers like this are supposed to have the kinds of twists and turns that leave you second-guessing yourself.
The story begins with a young assistant to Congressman Stephen Collins (Ben Affleck) dying on a subway platform in DC. It's soon uncovered that Collins and the girl were having an intimate relationship.
At first the media describes it as a suicide but Collins goes to his old college roommate Cal McAffrey (Russell Crowe), an old-school investigative journalist for the Washington Globe--a thinly-veiled Washington Post--to say he thinks the girl was murdered. McAffrey is already investigating the murders of a purse-snatcher and a pizza delivery guy in an alley. On the surface these seem completely unrelated, but of course they aren't.
Cal gets some help in his investigation from Della Frye (Rachel McAdams) a blogger for the paper's online side. So as a subplot we have the changing world of journalism from print to pixels, not to mention from ethics to profit. Della delves into the girl's sordid personal life while Cal digs into PointCorp, a Blackwater-type private security outfit Collins has been holding hearings on.
Before long Cal and Della are getting in over their heads and unsure of who, if anyone to trust. And that's really all I'll say so as not to spoil too many of the twists and turns.
Overall this was to me a well put together movie and with Crowe, Affleck, and supporting players like Helen Mirren, Robin Wright Penn, Jeff Daniels, and Jason Bateman there's plenty of talent, none of which really disappointed me. Like any good thriller, there were times when I thought for sure I had it all figured out only to realize (like the reporters in the movie) that I didn't. That's part of the reason I wanted to go back and see it again to see what I might have missed.
On a side note, the congressman's aide could almost be considered the film's MacGuffin. That's a plot element that sets things into motion but in a broader sense doesn't really matter. Basically all the girl does is walk from her apartment to the train platform; her only lines come in the form of voice mail. So it's kind of funny that she causes everything to happen and yet has almost no screen time whatsoever.
Anyway, as far as political thrillers go, I liked this and would recommend watching it--twice.
That is all.
My score: 75/100 (3 stars)
Metacritic score: 64/100 (2.5 stars)