Talents converge in thriller

When a film mixes journalists and politicians, there is a possibility for heavy-handed morals or clichéd plots and characters. Yet State of Playmanages to narrowly avoid all of those common pitfalls.
Cal McAffrey (Russell Crowe, “American Gangster”) is a weathered reporter who is so involved in his work that he eats food on the run in his car or out of a can when he actually makes it home. Lo and behold, he stumbles into a great story that needs to be unraveled because his old college roommate is now conveniently a big politician who is in trouble: Congressman Stephen Collins (Ben Affleck, “He’s Just Not That Into You”).
The main plot focuses on a possible corporate conspiracy involving a military-for-hire group named PointCorp, but there are several subplots woven into the fabric of this film as well. There is scandal, political intrigue, a scary professional assassin and newspaper drama enough to keep any intelligent viewer entertained.
This should come as no surprise given the talents of the three screenwriters who worked on the script based on a six-hour BBC mini-series. Billy Ray is known for strong journalistic-themed films like “Shattered Glass,” Tony Gilroy is known for action thrillers like the Bourne movies and Matthew Michael Carnahan is known for political intrigue films like “Lions for Lambs.” Together they make this film a perfect blend of all of these genres that manages to surprise the audience on numerous occasions.
Even the casting of the actors in this film comes as a shock several times. While the main leads are very well done, it is the strong supporting cast that leaves moviegoers equally impressed. Rachel McAdams was perhaps the biggest shocker, as she held her own in her role as the newbie reporter.
Yet it was still astonishing to see such powerhouse actors in some of the more minor roles. Helen Mirren (“Inkheart”) as the newspaper editor was every bit as strong and demanding as the role required while maintaining an approachable demeanor, whereas Robin Wright Penn (“Beowulf”) was equally vulnerable and confused as the Congressman’s wronged wife. Even Jeff Daniels (“Traitor”) and Jason Bateman (“Hancock”) revealed sides of their acting skills not previously seen.
Add to this strong cast and well-developed plot the brilliant effect of the score on the pacing of the film and audiences have quite an intense ride that will leave them impressed on all fronts.
The only complaint one might have would be the director’s choice to film the entire movie with a bobble camera effect. The pacing got more frantic as the movie intensified and made some of the action sequences hard to see. Why this particular filming choice is becoming all the rage in Hollywood remains a mystery.
Yet in the end, even this minor flaw will not leave audiences disappointed. This is a truly intelligent film that will captivate viewers right up until the end. Even if it is 127 minutes long.