Saturday, April 18, 2009
State of Play Brief Review
State of Play-Brief Review
State of Play ended up being what I'd pretty much anticipated it would be--great thriller and another excellent showcase for Russell's talents. There were also some very pleasant surprises. I normally won't try to pick a movie of Russell's apart until I'm seeing it for at least the third time, so these are basically just things that jumped out at me.
As usual, Russell's character, Cal McAffrey, is so three-dimensional that I felt I knew this guy. In the first moments of the film, Cal became real to me, in the sense of here's someone who's a real introvert. Yes, the major part of his job may be in interviewing people and interacting with them constantly in order to gain information, but the people don't interest Cal nearly as much as the information does.
I've read a lot about the sets on this movie, and they are truly amazing. The newsroom is incredibly realistic. The hotel room where Cal and Della interview Dominic Foy is a very generic, impersonal place and that comes across on the screen. Cal's cubicle and his apartment convey him perfectly. Information and words are what mean something to him. The printed word. The way both places are piled high with books, magazines, and newspapers totally dominating says it all.
Speaking of Dominic Foy, that was one of the movie's most pleasant surprises for me. Jason Bateman was the absolute epitome of the sleazy PR guy who expects to be "compensated" for every word that comes out of his mouth, every idea that comes to his mind. A couple of times I tried reminding myself that I was looking at that tall kid from "The Hogan Family", but it didn't work. He simply was Dominic Foy.
Ben Affleck came across well as the career politician. In some ways I felt almost sorry for Stephen Collins in the end. He came across as a man who had gone into politics for the real purpose of serving the public, but found himself in the position of being run by the political machine and not sure how he got there. Some people made noise about the age difference between Russell and Ben making their relationship as past college roommates unbelievable, but I didn't get that. It's only an eight year difference and when you think in terms of Cal having basically let himself go, while a politician would be highly aware of his image, it makes sense.
Helen Mirren, of course, is always wonderful and leaves me in awe of her talent. Rachel McAdams does a great job as the cub reporter and blogger. My sense was that Della Frye had been insulated by her job and by the way she did it. In working with Cal, she began to see the very real people and the very real violence behind the words she typed on her keyboard. Rachel and Russell did a very good job portraying the relationship between Della and Cal growing to one of mutual respect and even friendship.
Kevin McDonald's directing was wonderful. All of the drama came through while, at times, I could feel his background in documentary. I got the sense I was in a real newsroom, a real hospital room, a real crime scene.
All in all, I think "State of Play" is an excellent example of a movie that's difficult to make--an exciting thriller with solid, well-portrayed characters at the heart of it.