Based on the critically acclaimed BBC miniseries of the same name, STATE OF PLAY feels a little familiar as far as paranoid political thrillers go, but it’s so nicely executed—well written, compelling and rich—with a stellar set of actors that it’s easy to get engrossed in the story. Even if you think you know what happens (and it might be easy to predict), in the end the ride getting there is still worth it. The move from London to the U.S. capital is seamless, and the current American political climate fits nicely with the story. With all the backstabbing, secrets and lies, it fits almost too well.
Director Kevin MacDonald (LAST KING OF SCOTLAND) puts together a strong cast, including Russell Crowe, Affleck, Helen Mirren, Rachel McAdams, Robin Wright Penn, Jeff Daniels and even Jason Bateman. No one slums it here, with good performances all around, even if some of the roles are on the smaller side. (I especially wish Mirren had been given more to do.) The script by Matthew Michael Carnahan definitely helps, with a quick pace, snappy dialogue and very little fat to cut.
I should mention that they filmed STATE OF PLAY on location where I live in D.C., with the city being as much an integral character as Crowe or Affleck. And while I definitely got a kick out of seeing Bud White and Holden McNeil shoot in my favorite hangouts, I still would’ve dug the movie otherwise.
Making of STATE OF PLAY (18:44): A little more in depth than your average behind the scenes piece, with some nice interviews and background from cast and crew.
Extra Tidbit: In addition to Affleck replacing Norton, Brad Pitt was originally cast as Cal McAffrey before Russell Crowe. That means we were this close to a Tyler Durden/Narrator FIGHT CLUB reunion.