From the director, Kevin Macdonald, State of Play features the rise and fall of American congressman Stephen Collins (Ben Affleck) – who is handsome, unflappable, and ascending the ladder of power with unprecedented speed.
He is an honourable appointment and all eyes are on his rise to presidential success. He’s the future of his political party, and as the chairman of a committee assigned to oversee defence spending, he’s got all the right connections. As the presidential race draws near, Washington insiders begin to speculate that Collins will earn his party’s nomination for the country’s top job.
However, the prospect of Collins becoming president seems less and less likely, when his research assistant/mistress is viciously murdered, and some buried secrets begin to surface.
Collins was once a close friend to Cal McAffrey (Russell Crowe), who is now a top reporter in the nation’s capital. Assigned the task of investigating Collins by his ruthless editor, Cameron (Helen Mirren), McAffrey recruits fellow reporter Della (Rachel McAdams) in order to track down the truth and identify the killer.
The dubious fortune of both an old friendship with Collins and the need to investigate takes McAffrey into new territory – a cover-up that threatens to shake the nation‘s power structures. And in a town of spin–doctors and wealthy politicos, he will discover one truth: when billions are at stake, no one‘s integrity, love or life is ever safe.
Crowe works well in the part (indeed, he makes it hard to imagine Cal as Brad Pitt, who was originally cast), and he brings in some superb acting skills particularly when he realises what he might be getting into: at one point, Cal realises, with a shock, that he’s just rapped on the wrong door — well, the right one — and viewers can see and feel his fear, which turns his smooth talking into stuttering.
Although it isn’t quite conceivable that the fresh-faced President-to-be was a close friend to this caricature of a journalist, there is a wealth of chemistry between the other characters.
The script does a good job of condensing what was originally a BBC series and maintaining a buzz of urgency throughout to ensure a thriller of excellent quality.