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State of Play (2009)

Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 9/1/2009

All Ratings out of

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 8/30/2009


It's interesting to see one type of media portray another, and newspapers have figured in movies since the dawn of cinema. Many films have featured an intrepid reporter who had to get the big story. Certain films, such as His Girl Friday, All the President's Men, and The Paper helped to define the journalistic period in which they occurred. (Note that I didn't mention Newsies.) With the advent of electronic media, newspapers have seen a sharp decline in readership and several once prominent publications have ceased to exist. But, that doesn't mean that the newspaper movie is dead, as proven by State of Play.

As State of Play opens, Washington D.C. reporter Cal McAffrey (Russell Crowe) in looking into a mysterious shooting in which an unarmed man and a pizza delivery person where attacked. In the meantime, a congressional aide named Sonia Baker (Maria Thayer) falls in front of a subway car. Baker was an assistant to Stephen Collins, a congressman who is part of a committee which is investigating the private military outfit PointCorp. Collins also happens to be a friend of McAffrey. Seeking information on Collins, Della Frye (Rachel McAdams), who writes a blog for the paper, approaches McAffrey, but gets the cold shoulder. Cal soon meets with his old friend, and his wife, Ann Collins (Robin Wright Penn), to not only lend a hand, but to also gather information. Soon, it is revealed that Collins was having an affair with Baker. As McAffrey hears more of the story, he begins to realize that the shootings may somehow be connected to Collins. He reluctantly agrees to work with Della as the two track down the story and a killer.

State of Play, which is based on a British mini-series, is an interesting film which offers a little something for everyone. At it's core, it's a straight-ahead thriller/mystery. A series of seemingly unrelated and random deaths suddenly begin to show similarities and this leads McAffrey and Frye to dig deeper. They begin to uncover clue after clue and this leads them and the audience closer to a solution. Through scanning documents and videos and interviewing people close to the case, they are able to piece together a puzzle which is very far-reaching.

This leads directly into the second part of the film's character, which is a political thriller. While the movie doesn't play on modern paranoia in the matter of Enemy of the State or Eagle Eye, State of Play does incorporate some very pertinent issues. PointCorp has been operating troops in the Middle East as part of U.S. military operations and with their deep pockets, they can operate above the law. Their tentacles reach deep into Washington, as we soon learn that they control many people. Also, the subplot of a congressman who has had an affair feels as if it were ripped from the headlines.

Lastly, State of Play is a movie about journalists. Someone involved in the film, I'm not sure who, is very attuned to the current economic crisis which faces newspapers and this is woven into the story. Editor Cameron Lynne (Helen Mirren) clearly wants McAffrey and Frye to get the scoop, but she's also interested in a piece which will sell papers. There's also a very interesting passage where the reporters come across evidence which could be helpful to the police, but they decide to keep it for themselves. This leads to trouble, and raises some astute questions about journalistic morals.

State of Play also gets a huge boost from its cast. Not unlike his role in The Insider, Russell Crowe proves that he's great at playing down-to-Earth, yet driven people. With his scruffy appearance (which is explained in the special features), he's quite believable. Ben Affleck, who has been unjustly vilified by far too many people, holds his own in his scenes with Crowe. Rachel McAdams (who disappeared from cinemas, but is now suddenly back) continues to prove that she can adapt to nearly any role. These great performances lend a hand to an already tight script, which, save for one hiccup at the end, works quite well. If you like political thrillers which tend to stay in the realm of the believable, then State of Play is for you.

State of Play always has a pen with it on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains a VC-1 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 25 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing only a hint of grain and no defects from the source material. Despite the fact that the film has a slightly dark look, the image is never too dark or bright and the action is always visible. The colors look fine and the level of detail is very good. The Disc has a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track delivers clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are quite good, and nearly every scene has a nice example of this. The subway and the circling helicopters provide great surround sound and subwoofer effects. A sniper scene really shows off the power of this track.

The State of Play Blu-ray Disc contains only a few extras. The Disc contains 2 DELETED SCENES which run about 4 minutes. One is a longer version of Ann Collins' press conference, while the other shows Della's interview with Rhonda. Both are interesting, but the film doesn't suffer without them. "The Making of State of Play" (19 minutes) is a detailed examination of the film's production. We get a nice amount of on-set footage, peppered with comments from the cast and filmmakers. The piece looks at the story, the actors and characters, the film's look and how the movie attempted to maintain a realistic journalistic feel. The "U-Control" feature gives us two option; "Picture in Picture" provides cast and crew interviews and behind-the-scenes footage, while "Washington, D.C. Locations" examines the real-life places used in the film.

Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long