Saturday, 17 October 2009

State of Play...

One of the problems with Hollywood these days is that, instead of being inspired by a great movie and seeking to do their own - originally scripted - version in the same ballpark, they just remake it instead. Nevermind the context in which the original was made, nevermind the decades and accumulating critical acclaim, and fan adoration.

State of Play, however, is a tricky one in that regard. It's an American movie version of a British TV drama. Although clearly the source text is heavily inspired by All The President's Men - which is essentially the ultimate "newspaper movie". You want a movie about the printed press, about tracking down an explosive story, about shady un-named insider source meetings in shadowy parking garages - you go straight for All The President's Men ... and so you should, because it's bloody great.

State of Play, Americanisation or not, is a bloody good thriller. It's not a remake of All The President's Men, but it's from the same stable - but updated to the 21st century where the 'new kid' "blogosphere" has been giving the printed press a damn good drubbing.

If only the actual printed press was as good as it appears in this film, or the aforementioned 70s Watergate thriller. All too often the modern press is just an endless cycle of orgiastic simplification, of poorly checked facts (even out-right lies), of celebrity obsessed junk, and of a complete lack of anything really meaningful. You get the sense that many of them will believe themselves to be the next Woodward or Bernstein, but quite frankly, they're kidding themselves and the joke's on the public.

Still ... at least print journalism isn't as bad as TV news!

Back to State of Play however, and there's shady goings-on afoot within Washington D.C. (there's the President's Men vibe again) with Ben Affleck (on good form) embroiled somehow in the death of one of his aides - a death that is quite possibly connected to a huge private military company known as Point Corps. The shit's deep, and it's hitting the fan.

Cue a chunky, 1990 Saab driving, cluttered, old school reporter in the shape of Cal McAffrey (Russell Crowe), and the plucky young blogger Della Frye (Rachel McAdams). This conflict between old-and-new reporting styles is flagged up straight from the off, but is then pretty much watered down immediately and then forgotten about for the rest of the film, which is a shame as there was surely more meat on that theme's bone.

Similar to All The President's Men, the thirst for the story - but by getting all the facts present and correct (regardless of personal involvement, politics, or what-have-you) - is strong throughout. You can almost feel the newspaper ink on your fingertips. That said, it does lose some of its drive in the throughout the second half, and never quite regains the journalistic fervor of the first hour until the very end - which is capped-off nicely by a fascinating (even loving) tracking of exactly how a newspaper gets from the hack's computer to the paper in your hand.

All The President's Men looms large over this film (and this blog post) - quite simply, it's a bloody great film - but State of Play is a very solid and entertaining thriller, and more than deserving of being placed in the same stable as the (thankfully not tagged for a remake) All The President's Men.

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