So, I didn’t watch State of Play for the longest time, because I thought it was (Body of Lies. Okay, look, they came out the same year, they’re both vaguely political, both have Russell Crowe, both have prepositions in the title. But every time I tuned into Body of Lies, someone was getting tortured. So… no.
(I had difficult watching Ridley Scott’s Black Hawk Down as well. It was really well made, but even worse with the War Is Hell and There Is No Easy Solution Here because it was a true event. One of those movies that I appreciated but can’t say I enjoyed.)
So anyway, we’re talking about State of Play.
The movie is based on a BBC mini-series. It’s a political murder mystery/thriller, and even having to compress six hours of plot into two, it was satisfyingly twisty and engrossing. Three murders happen in Washington, which don’t appear to be linked at first, but of course they are, because it’s Washington. There’s political wrangling, and an Evil Corporation, and an adulterous congressman… Its the type of movie where you know the ingredients, but the fun is figuring out how they’re going to fit together.
It’s a newspaper mystery, where you suspend a certain amount of disbelief and go with the possibility that two reporters could uncover this Deep Dark Scandal that’s been lurking underneath the lobbyists and politicos for however long… And of course they can, because one of them is veteran Washington reporter Russell Crowe, and one is cub reporter/blogger, Rachel McAdams. (Who I’ve only ever seen in Sherlock Holmes. I like her better here.)
Brad Pitt was originally cast as MacAffery, who is played by Crowe here, and John Simms (The Master) in the BBC version. I can’t imagine how different–and very likely less interesting–the character would have been with a prettier actor*. Here I could see him as an entrenched reporter, someone who could solve this type of mystery with his brain and connections and his friendship with congressman Ben Affleck was much more interesting with the contrast between their characters: one smooth-faced and trim, nattily dressed and well coifed, and the other… not.
Goes to show how much a character can make a movie work. Everything may have been tied up a little neatly at the end (likely due to the plot compression), but this was a puzzler that I really enjoyed watching unfold. Definitely worth catching on cable, or renting on a Saturday night.
*I don’t mean less handsome actor. Just being clear here. Also, I love how rumpled and scruffy Crowe looks here. I mean, he looks like someone who makes a living sitting on his rump in front of a computer, and obviously, this is very hot to someone who makes a living sitting on her rump in front of a computer.