Saturday, April 25, 2009

State of Play

State of Play is a modern day All the President's Men with Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman. The problem is that newspapers are dying as they should because their business plans are obsolete and their print is too far slanted to the left. This is movie is entertaining and well scripted, but its storyline has been presnted to us already in the running and incredible series of 24 this season. And the 24 series is still ongoing. The villian is companies that contract with the Department of Defense (DOD) to handle missions that the DOD does not want their armed forces doing. Either it is too dangerous, boring, or could be construed as controversial. I have no problem with the DOD doing this. The only reason they do this is because of the rise of political correctness. Too many naive and ignorant citizens do not realize people die in war and blood is spilled. There were some travesties in the Vietnam war and these soldiers should have been court martialed and tossed into Fort Leavenworth. If the nasty cultural phenomenon of political correctness never put a strangle hold around America, then our military would have the ability to accomplish what it is supposed to.

Corrupt and anti-American organizations like the UN do not help either.

Russell Crowe stars as an overweight but hard core and old school journalist named Cal McAffrey. Cal writes for the Washington Globe, a fictional newspaper ran by the English actress
Helen Mirren. She plays Cameron Lynne who is well aware that the new ownership wants to sell newspapers and the old paradigm needs to change. Cal is sometimes at odds with this and this is a realistic subplot. Cal is teamed up with the always pretty Rachel McAdams who plays the net and blog savvy Della Frye. The Globe does have an online division and Cameron is not afraid to spit out to Cal this is the side of the newspaper that is growing and emerging. He is the side of the dinosaur, the side on life support.

Pretty boy and white collar Ben Affleck stars in this movie as Rep. Stephen Collins. Collins is a Democrat who thinks he is fighting the good fight but is really just undermining America's safety. But he has the support of Charlie Sheen and Madonna I am sure. Collins actually undermines himself by falling for a pretty staffer and this lack of restraint becomes a tabloid affair when this staffer turns up dead. This staffer is named Sonya Baker.

Collins is married to Forrest Gump's Robin Wright Penn who plays Anne Collins. Anne is having an affair with Cal which I never really heard how this began. It does raise some questions how Cal is even associated with this story in the first place since it could have been a conflict of interest. But he is the lead reported on this story. The even stranger thing is that Stephen admits he has very little friends in his life and his only friend is admittedly Cal. This is just a had scratcher here, he knows Cal slept with his wife and seems to have shrugged this off. Every time their is a crisis Anne comes running to Cal to either talk about it or holler about it. This movie shows both of these conversational formats, the quiet and outburst kind.

The Matrix's Harry Lennix represents the police here as Det. Donald Bell. He seems to have a casual relationship in this movie with Cal until a victim is finished off by Michael Berresse who is Robert Bingham. Robert executes a young and scared black teenager in the beginning and then shoots a bicyclist who could be a witness to the crime. This cyclist though is guarded by a uniformed police officer in the hospital. As he is slowly recovering from his 2 day coma because he was shot twice by Robert, he is visited by Della. Della is invited to help cover the story by Cal and Cameron. Coincidentally, Della's online blog has mentioned and covered the staffer who was murdered by Robert Bingham. As Della is trying to explain to the officer, doctor, and nurse why she is in the room with this recovering medical patient, the room lights up with gun fire as Bingham finishes this potential witness off. About four shots, the one to center mass does the job.

Bell and the police are not happy with the Globe knowing this shooting victim is tied to emerging political scandal. Cal defends his paper by saying they were not sure what they had. Bell does not buy this and makes a wisecrack to a comment made by Della. Della may have been over her head in this police-journalistic confrontation. But she felt like putting her two cents in. Probably should have just remained silent. She has already moved up higher in the paper's heirarchy by being able to work on this massive story.

Jason Bateman from Juno holds some screen time in this movie as Dominic Foy. He is prominent public relations professional in this city. He works for PointCorp which is the ominous private defense contractor in this movie. Well, it is one of his clients. PointCorp has Foy try to calm down this staffer who works for Cal's team as a research assistant. She becomes impregnated by Cal but this is not known to him. This movie has many twists and turns. Cal is ex military so is respectable from this front but becoming a politician and he seems to toss away any honor he once had. In the Persian Gulf war, the original, he saves Bingham's life. But Bingham is not wanted by the army when the bullets stop flying because Bingham does not have all his marbles.

Since Cal is having an affair with this staffer whose name is Sonya Baker. Sonya acts suspicious at times. For instance, when Cal is over at her home and a fax comes through, she quickly covers it up and muffles her voice when she is talking onto the phone. She is spying on Collins since Collins is trying to dig up dirt on PointCorp. Why she decides to have this relationship with Cal when she can follow his leads and steps in the day time while working for him is beyond me. She is a fool and this is what leads to her doom. She was playing with fire and should have taken the $26,000 per month PointCorp was tossing at her and her miniture pay check from the US taxpayer-which was just icing on the cake. She had to take it a step further-unwise and which shows little social discretion.

Dumb and Dumber's Jeff Daniels is in this movie as well. He plays Senator George Fergus who is the top Democrat on the hill and offers Cal some strategic advice. Cal chooses to continue the hard core question of PointCorp in Congressional hearings. Much to Fergus's dismay. Fergus was corrupt or atleast tied to this labrynthine criminal underpinnings in some way. Fergus may have been having a sexual relationship with Sonya's mother. He recommends to Stephen's staffing manager that this 25 year old vibrant and bright female could make a good fit to Stephen's team as a favor to avoid any blackmail threat. Sonya's mother is Ganeen and this seems to strike a chord when Cal mentions this to Fergus outside the large, gorgeous Washington opera house. This is a Bill Clinton story involving more people.

The movie had a solid ending. PointCorp takes a beating in the press and the CEO resigns in disgrace with tomatoes being tossed at him. Much like what should happen with GE and NBC heads of office in this real world. Stephen loses his seat and is thrown in jail. His involving of Bingham and asking him to follow around Sonya does not look good despite his suspicions being correct. Stephen is Collin's friend but he can not hold back this story, it is his job if he does. Not with his paper having new ownership and stiff competition. They need the sales. Even in the newspaper's hey day, whenever this was, perhaps 30 years ago and prior, this story would have run. Collins made some bad moves. He knew Bingham was unstable. He should have hired a private investigator or been implicit with Bingham-do not lay a hand on her. Do not approach her regardless. But Stephens did not and Bingham, remembering that he owes Stephens his life, took it to another level and devastated Sonya's life. Bingham was distraught over Sonya's deciept and flipped upside down. Sonya probably did not stand a chance but since she was playing with dynamite, she should have been carrying a gun herself or atleast a stun gun.

Not sure happens to Fergus if anything. I am sure he consulted a lawyer but being a Democrat he is probably one himself.

This movie has it all, it has some famous American music, several complex and dynamic characters, a little comedy, intrigue, and suspense. I am not sure if it is better than last year's Russell Crowe's Body of Lies but it approaches this. It is probably the second best movie this year behind Clive Owen's The International. The ending was not as climactic and their was not as much on the line as there was in The International.

I allocate this movie four stars.****

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