|Week 12: State of Play
||[Apr. 21st, 2009|05:18 pm]
The next film up for discussion in The Independent Film Forum will be State of Play. Is Kevin Macdonald’s new crime flick as gripping as The Last King of Scotland and Touching the Void? Are Russell Crowe, Ben Affleck, Helen Mirren and Rachel McAdams any good in their leading roles? Does the film translate well from its original BBC mini-series?
Add your comments below and we’ll print the best in the newspaper next week.
This is what Anthony Quinn had to say about the film in his review for The Independent:
"It's a prestige picture all the way, supercompetent, polished, watchable – but oddly unexciting. Only once does Macdonald stage a set piece worthy of the great political thrillers of the '70s (All the President's Men, The Parallax View) he plainly admires. Cal, following a lead from a Point Corp insider, visits a grim apartment block and realises, too late, that he's pitched up right at the door of the crack assassin haunting the edge of the picture. His retreat into a basement car park and the sound of Crowe's harassed breathing as the killer stalks him are compellingly done. I would have liked more of the same."
Here's a video review of the film by the Chicago Tribune's Michael Phillips
Here's what Slate Magazine had to say about the film:
"If only State of Play (Universal Pictures) had been the film it so obviously wanted to be: a throwback to the gritty conspiracy pictures of the mid-'70s (The Parallax View, The Conversation, All the President's Men) in which mature, sad, smart people trying to do the right thing are slowly ensnared in ever-expanding webs of political and criminal intrigue. That movie would have felt so timely right now. Our post-financial-crash malaise feels distinctly Watergate-ian (How long have they been screwing us over? Who knew what, when?), and the dire state of the newspaper industry lends State of Play's pavement-pounding journalist hero a retro glamour. Even an ersatz '70s gritfest would have really hit the spot. But after a bracing first hour, State of Play defaults on the most basic promise of the conspiracy thriller. Instead of luring us down an ever-darker and twistier path, it strands us in a tedious and ill-designed maze."
Over to you, time to have your say...
I loved "the parallax view" so i'm hoping that the state of play will along the same lines...
This film belongs to the clever and crumpled character that is Cal McAffrey, the surprisingly sweet journalist played brilliantly by Russell Crowe, the swoonmonger of yesteryear. I won't beat around the Eucalyptus bush when I say that his appearance is disappointing but when he speaks, you can still hear the roar of a batallion of unbridled testosterone marching on a gravel dirt track lined with silk and honey; no amount of good living can eradicate that. By the middle of the film, you realise that he is a superb actor, come schnitzel or soda water.
It is difficult to compare this film to Kevin Macdonald's previous films, 'The Last King of Scotland' and 'Touching the Void' as they are all very different. They are all gripping but for different reasons.'The Last King of Scotland' - although a fictitious story - was based on the real-life regime headed by the brutal dictator, Idi Amin, and 'Touching The Void' is an adaptation of a candid account of a mountaineer breaking all the rules by cutting the rope on his buddy - a taboo in climbing circles. All three films are gripping but I have to say that 'State of Play' is the least tense - you could easily shave 30 minutes off the length to better effect as it is a tad drawn out. 'Touching the Void' and 'Last King of Scotland' have more in common with each other as they are based on real-life events which increases the intrigue, unlike 'State of Play' which is based on pure fiction from a BBC series of the same name.
'State of Play' does not stretch the acting ability of its cast quite as much as 'Last King' stretched the formidable talent that was found in the rare black pearl that is Forest Whitaker. Helen Mirren is comfortably typecast in the role of ballbreaker to rival Stephen Hendry's snooker cue - a woman in a man's world - so no surprises there. The minute you see Ben Affleck's character, Congressman Stephen Collins, you realise what a great job the make-up and hair department have done on him - he has aged so - yet is as graceful and smooth as only Ben Affleck can be. Jason Bateman is oilier than a mechanic's rag as the PR-cum-scumbag, Dominic Foy but he doesn't have enough screen time for us to really detest him. Curiously, Rachel McAdams is the only member of the female cast who does not have any sexual chemistry with Cal - strange for such a pretty young girl.
The showdown between Stephen and Cal at the end of 'State of Play' perfectly highlights the contrast between the two main characters in both appearance and character; suddenly they appear to be worlds apart. So, in that regard, perhaps this film isn't so different from 'Last King' or 'Touching the Void' after all, as there is a theme of male bonding and betrayal running trough all three films - a theme that Kevin Macdonald is keen to explore with his filmmaking.
It was good - very enjoyable. A really nice pace and a good storyline. I don't imagine it was a particularly realistic portrayal of the way journalism truly is in many ways, though it was relatively understated until the point where Russell Crowe met the killer (spoiler alert!) when things went a bit over the top.
I also was a little disappointed by some of the acting; particularly Ben Affleck (who I usually like) and Helen Mirren - I thought she was really hammy and over the top. Her part was stereotyped as the angry boss fighting with the renegade employee.
But otherwise an enjoyable conspiracy thriller.
A really satisfying thriller, which also provides some food for thought on broader political topics like the future of news. Kevin McDonald, the writers and editors have all done a fantastic job of compressing the six-hour original into two hours of plausible, comprehensible drama. Fantastic performances from all of the cast (Affleck included), but especially Crowe and the scene-stealing Jason Bateman as an ethically-challenged PR man. The music deserves special mention, too, for ratcheting up the tension at every turn.
A major disappointment, unfortunately. There has been a lot of hype and talk about this film but I didn't think it added up to much at all. Granted, it was very slickly made and well produced, with a nice gloss and frantic music to make it fly by. But behind all that there wasn't much. Aside from the high-profile actors and up and coming director it was a fairly standard issue Hollywood film. It didn't really raise any major issue in a serious way, it just scratched at the surface a little. Some of the acting was quite poor though I thought Ruseell Crowe was good. Jason Bateman's cameo was very enjoyable but even with that I was a little sceptical, in that it was again a very standard trick of having a decent character actor do a scene stealing turn to distract you from the fact that underneath it all is a fairly run of the mill film.