"A good soldier fights for his country...and his friends. But these guys, they want to make it all about the money. You want to live in a world like that?"
State of Play is a solid political thriller. It doesn't move beyond the shadowy corporate conspiracies and government corruption that is so common in this genre, but thanks to a combination of a great cast, good writing, and solid camera work, it's one of the better entries (along with The International, which was more slanted towards action) that I've seen recently.
This is very much an ensemble cast, though Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdama and Russell Crowe are clearly the leads. Three excellent leads, as it happens. I've never been so impressed with Rachel McAdams, as I was in this movie. Russell Crowe once again plays a reporter so well that it seems like he could stop acting and get a job at a newspaper, tomorrow. And Ben Affleck has totally made me forget about some of the horrible movies that he's been a part of in the past. The man is a good actor. The rest of the cast is made up of such notable names as Hellen Mirren, Robin Wright, Viola Davis, Harry Lennix, and Jason Bateman. Each of them shines in their roles, no matter how major or minor.
None of those actors could salvage State of Play if it was an incoherent mess, as so many of these movies unfortunately tend to devolve into. Luckily, that's not the case. The story does have one too many twists at the end, but otherwise it's clear, interesting, easy to follow, and makes sense. Director Kevin Macdonald seems to have a good grasp on the fact that a movie can be intelligent and involving without being a labyrinthine mess.
This is also somewhat of a love letter to newspapers and the old-timey journalism that seems to be vanishing in today's blog and everything-online oriented world. The newspaper office is largely where the mysteries are uncovered, pondered, and solved, and that gives State of Play a rather unique place amongst the countless movies that fall under the thriller umbrella.