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State of Play (4 stars)

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State of Play

(12A) 118min

Hollywood has got its hands on the acclaimed 2003 BBC TV series State of Play and done what Hollywood does, namely moved the action to the US, brought in a parliament of A-list stars to replace the British character actors and changed aspects of the story to fit the two-hour timeframe. The big loss is there is no ‘real’ political event to replace the Blair 2001 re-election storyline and the culture of sleaze that was the backdrop to the original series. Instead, the film makes a much greater effort to portray the current difficulties being faced by print media.

Helen Mirren plays a newspaper editor struggling to maintain editorial principles while under pressure from the paper’s new proprietors to boost circulation. Rachel McAdams’s cub reporter has built her reputation as an ace blogger and is dismissive of traditional journalism. Ben Affleck’s congressman is the slick rising star of Washington, whereas David Morrissey’s MP has something of the night about him. Where actor John Simm played lead journalist Cal McCaffrey as young and appealing, Russell Crowe is an old-school truth-seeking journalist, the type that used to be a mainstay in films such as His Girl Friday and All the President’s Men, whereas more recently directors have had more fun depicting wayward journalists such as Stephen Glass in Shattered Glass and Paul Avery in Zodiac.

The good news is that this transfer across the pond is more High Fidelity than Fever Pitch. Plaudits go to director Kevin Macdonald who, aided by a heavyweight performance from Crowe and a surprising turn from Affleck, has made another winner to sit on his DVD shelf next to The Last King of Scotland and his award-winning documentaries One Day in September and Touching the Void.

He’s created a very old-fashioned, principled, investigative journalism movie, full of red herrings, surprising twists and corrupt politicians. It will keep those who haven’t seen the series on the edge of their seat.

General release from Fri 24 Apr.

State of Play

  • 4 stars
  • 2009
  • US
  • 118 min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Kevin Macdonald
  • Written by: Matthew Michael Carnahan, Tony Gilroy, Peter Morgan, Billy Ray
  • Cast: Russell Crowe, Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams, Helen Mirren

Hollywood has got its hands on the acclaimed 2003 BBC TV series, moved the action to the US, and brought in a parliament of A-list stars. Mirren plays a newspaper editor struggling to maintain editorial principles, McAdams' cub reporter has built her reputation as an ace blogger and Crowe is an old-school truth-seeking…

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