Solid State

15 Apr

In the new film State of Play, Russell Crowe plays Cal McCaffrey, a hard-working beat reporter for the fictional Washington Globe, who is trying to solve a murder case. Then his old college roommate, Congressman Stephen Collins (Ben Affleck), gets thrown into the mix when his research assistant, who he was having an affair with, turns up dead. Is there a connection between the two cases? McCaffrey will find out — if his conflicting loyalties don’t trip him up in the process.

As if ripped from today’s headlines, SoP feels current — and it may make Boston audiences chuckle a little too much. That’s because McCaffrey’s paper, the Globe, is also in financial straits with a parent company breathing down the editor’s neck to print more sell-able stories. In fact, McCaffrey’s biggest competition for his story is not another paper but an in-house blogger who is able to write and publish much quicker than he can. In other news, Collins is on a subcommittee that’s going after a Halliburton-like military contractor. Oh yeah, and Harry Lennix, who plays a cop, bears an almost too-striking resemblance to Barack Obama.

Those distractions aside, SoP works as a political thriller. There are twists and turns, and the person (or people) responsible for the murders turns out to be not who you’d instantly suspect. (That said, people around me seemed to figure it out — or at least they said they did as they were walking out.) The top-notch cast — which also includes Jeff Daniels, Helen Mirren, Jason Bateman, Rachel McAdams, and my old high school chum David Harbour — elevates the material, making what could have been a more conventional film that much more entertaining. Is SoP going to be remembered at year’s end as one of the best films? No. But it’s a solidly entertaining two hours that’s worth seeing. I’m giving it a strong B.

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