Directed by Kevin Macdonald
A couple nights ago I watched the film “Michael Clayton” on TV. And not just on any TV channel, the Diva TV channel. What that movie was doing on that network I’ll never know… though I suppose it might have something to do with Tilda Swinton’s Academy Award win. It was probably the fifth time that I have seen that film and this viewing was unique only in the sense that I never watch movies on television channels. I just don’t have the patience to sit through all the commercial breaks. But “Michael Clayton” is such a powerful and suspenseful film that after watching only five minutes of it, (the opening voice over monologue by Tom Wilkinson) I knew that I wasn’t gonna stop. The movie is just THAT good. So why am I talking about “Michael Clayton” in a review of “State of Play”? Because “State of Play” is co-written by the writer and director of “MC”, Tony Gilroy. And really, that’s the only reason I sat down to watch it in the first place.
When this movie was originally advertised I never connected it with Gilroy, and really I think that was a missed opportunity by Universal when they were marketing the film. This movie came out about a year and a half after “MC” was nominated for the Academy Award for best picture and best original screenplay, and you don’t push Gilroy’s name? That’s just stupid. Had I known back then that he co-wrote this movie, I would have been in the theatre opening weekend to see it (just like I was for “Duplicity”… though sadly that film was no where near as good as “MC” or “SOP”). Gilroy’s name would have spiked my interest much more than Russell Crowe, Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams, Jeff Daniels, and Helen Mirren combined. Had I also known that Jason Bateman was in it, that also would have ensured my ass in a seat. Okay, so I probably need to stop ranting now about the people who made the film and just get onto the film itself… well, if you say so.
“State of Play” is a film based off of an original British television mini-series. (Quite like “Edge of Darkness” which I reviewed a week ago.) And like that other film I cannot compare this one to the original because I have not seen it. But I will say that this film is a very serviceable political thriller. It pushes all the right buttons and has just the right amount of momentum to never be boring, though it never quite reaches that upper level of sublime. When you have such a talented crew, both in front of the camera and behind, it’s hard to imagine creating a disappointing piece of cinema (hard to imagine, thought not quite impossible). Crowe gives the performance that he always give in every one of his movies. I.e. Chubby and moody with a good heart. McAdams is particularly surprising simply because I enjoyed her in this. (Normally, I can’t.) And Bateman steals the ten or so minutes that he’s actually in the film. Ben Affleck has always been an individual who I have felt is unjustly criticized in Hollywood for having no talent, yes the man has made some bad films, but you can’t tell me that after watching, “Chasing Amy” “Dogma” “Hollywood Land” or “Gone Baby Gone” that the man has no talent, that simply isn’t true. And he proves it again here. Anyway, I guess enough is enough, watch the film.