Saturday, September 19, 2009

State of Play

Kevin MacDonald, 2009 (8.1*)
This is a surprisingly tense and riveting political thriller. Combining journalism, national security, homicide, and mystery is not easy to pull off unless you have a good screenplay. This was adapted by Matthew Michael Carnahan and Tony Gilroy from a BBC series by Paul Abbott, 'updated' to the U.S., and filmed by talented young director Kevin MacDonald, who previously helmed award winners Touching the Void and Last King of Scotland. There are also crew links to the Bourne films. Apparently this had "all sorts of actors wanting in", said MacDonald, so the cast is a stellar ensemble. Oscar winner Russell Crowe is a reporter for Oscar winner Helen Mirren, who is perfect as editor of a major Washington paper. Oscar winner Ben Affleck is a US Congressman investigating a company that does private security for the war on terrorism, at a price tag of billions per year.

Oscar nominee Rachel McAdams is a young reporter who does the paper's online blog; she ends up getting involved early and helps Crowe with the investigation. Oscar nominee Robin Wright Penn is Affleck's wife, and good friends with Crowe through the Congressman; this connection drives Crowe's character to dig into the story to help his friend. Jeff Daniels is also in the cast, as another important politician connected to national security. Jason Bateman even has a small but important part as a PR man with some weighty info. [He was also in
The Kingdom; what's with Bateman and suddenlyll all these national security/spy movies?]

This is just the background, the plot is even more twisty and involved, and begins with the homicide of Affleck's aid in the investigation, and some unrelated street homicides; thus the mystery begins and the plot quickly thickens. This story has come very eery national security implications, and the way MacDonald lets the story unfold through journalists, so that the audience gets information when they do, was reminiscent of All the President's Men. This is a more violent and potentially frightening scenario, but that one had the weight of being true and part of history. There is even a sly reference made in the story here with the Watergate building.


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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

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