State of Play

Yeah, Ben Affleck. *sigh* But he’s playing a politician, and they always seem to be kind of wooden and distant, so it isn’t so bad. It’s not a bad little thriller, but it reminds me of that Ewan McGregor/Hugh Jackman film whose name I can never remember, because it’s hard to remember this film, too.
It’s all political, though, I know that much. Ben Affleck plays Stephen Collins, the rising star of one political party or the other. They don’t say, so no one has to dislike his affiliation. He’s on a crusade (of course), running a committee that’s investigating government spending in the middle east. But this involves a big, rich, powerful corporation (naturally) that doesn’t care for being investigated (who would?), and when Collins’ head researcher for the committee gets crushed under a subway train, it looks like someone’s out to get him. At least, that’s old Ben’s story. Unsurprisingly, most people don’t believe him, especially when it turns out that he was having an affair with said researcher.
Russell Crowe to the rescue! He’s Cal McAffrey, mild-mannered reporter for the Washington Globe. Okay, not mild-mannered, but he is a reporter; and he was Collins’ college roommate, so he believes, or at least acts like he does. I think maybe he believes just because no one else does and he feels sorry for the guy. He does look pretty hapless. And the affair is huge news, of course, much to Cal’s special chagrin, because not only is he Steve’s best (and apparently only) friend, he has a giant crush on Mrs. Collins (Robin Wright Penn). It’s so huge that even the paper’s bunch of 18-year-old bloggers are on it, and one particularly brash specimen, Della Frye (Rachel McAdams, who is apparently around mainly to look dewy-eyed and innocent, and attract the male audience) tries to get a scoop from Cal. I don’t know if they really still call them scoops or not, but anyway. For some reason odd little questions like that are sticking in my head better than the plot.

Cal helps prove my Good Guys Have Messy Offices theory.

A thief gets shot, along with an innocent bystander pizza delivery guy. Congressional hearings drone on and on, while Collins does his best to look impassioned about his quest to expose corruption. Reporters ask annoying questions, not least of all Cal and his eventual faithful sidekick, Della. Jeff Daniels (the blind ex-druggie from The Lookout) as Senator George Fergus is actually pretty good at looking friendly and sinister at the same time. The evil corporation looms evilly over everything. And Cal and Co. tie it all together into a neat little package for the front page. Okay, not completely neat, but they try.
And it isn’t bad. Jason Bateman (Hancock) gets to steal a couple of scenes as a strung out minor bad guy, and Helen Mirren as editor Cameron Lynne steals every scene she’s in, because she’s just that cool. Cal’s a little scared of her, and rightly so. So it’s easy to overlook the little loose ends and weird coincidences and just enjoy.
Three and three-quarter idols. The plot’s fairly predictable, but not so much to be boring, and the dialogue is good, though some of that may be thanks to its original British roots as a TV miniseries. Maybe it’s just me, but I think British writers are often better. But it was translated over to American pretty well, thankfully. Best of all, I think Ben’s finally found his niche, just like Keanu.