As Hollywood thrillers go, you could do much worse than this new flick with an all-star cast -- all of whom turn in strong performances. Even Ben.
Russell Crowe! Ben Affleck! Helen Mirren! Rachel McAdams! Robin Wright Penn! Even the bit parts went to A-list actors. Oscar nominee Viola Davis (Doubt) shows up in one brief scene. Jason Bateman is always a welcome sight, but I like my Jason Bateman movies on the funny/quirky side. I feared he was going to be all serious when he finally showed up three-quarters of the way through. As it happens, his smarmy PR guy is some much-needed comic relief.
The movie opens with the death (murder? suicide?) of a young, pretty Congressional aide. The congressman played by Ben Affleck is just a little too upset when he learns of her death. It's no surprise (in the movie, as in real life) that the married politician has been banging his young aide. The trouble is, Congressman Collins is in charge of an investigation into the shady dealings of a Blackwater-esque defense contractor that's supplying soldiers-for-hire for Iraq. The Congressman is in no position to question anyone's ethics.
As Collins gets into deeper doodoo, he leans on his old college roommate, Cal (Crowe) -- a star reporter for The Washington Globe. Cal is as devoted to his old friend as he is to getting the big scoop. Trouble is, there's a new hotshot blogger (Della, played by McAdams) at The Globe who hot on the trail of the same sordid story.
Washington, D.C. -- so often depicted as the majestic city I find it to be -- has never looked murkier. There are some nasty goings-on in the halls of power, and the lighting and locales match the shenanigans. But, there's more to this layered story than political corruption. The tension between old-school print journalism and the upstart blogosphere provides the movie with its heart.
This is one whodunit that's actually fairly easy to follow -- at least until the end, which unravels a bit. But, State of Play is that rare well-paced thriller with an exceptional cast. It's good, nasty fun. See it.