State Of Play DVD Review: Ballots and Bullets

September 21, 2009 by  
Filed under - Home, Film Reviews


STATE OF PLAY: On general DVD release from Monday 21st September 2009

It’s fair to say that 2009 hasn’t been the best of years for the political fraternity.

In-fighting, the recession and budget scandals ludicrous and incredulous enough to raise the fist shaking ire of even the most ambivalent of apathetic everymen has cemented public opinion currently lies somewhere between Jordan and Kerry Katona.

So it’s ironic and somewhat surprising that two of this year’s best fictional projects are rooted in the political mire.

Yet while In The Loop managed to exploit the situation for all its worth, State Of Play miraculously mixes two of the most boring worlds to watch (politics and journalism) into something genuinely riveting.

And even more bizarrely, it takes a BBC drama as its source material.

After the seemingly innocuous death of a woman who jumped in front of a subway train, Congressman Stephen Collins (Ben Affleck) very publically breaks down during a hearing with a private defense contractor, PointCorp. A university friend of the congressman, newspaper reporter Cal McAffrey (Russell Crowe) takes it upon himself to probe further. When it appears that the young woman was both Stephen’s lover and callously murdered, Cal and his editorial protege, Della Frye, begin poking at a homicidal paper trail that leads all the way to the top.

With a leading cast like the above, and Helen Mirren and Jason Bateman in supporting roles, there was little chance State of Play would fall victim to a duff script. Neither schlocky nor excessive for the attention-grabbing sake of it, the myriad twists and turns are uncovered in the understated, progressive and revelatory manner accustomed to its journalistic subject matter.

While many will feel underwhelmed by its lack of fireworks, it’s refreshing to see a conspiratorial ‘whodunnit’ written and acted so directly and polished, noticeably devoid of the expected Dan Brown-esque tropes (rush from a to b, get shot at, there’s a bomb at c, oh look ‘exposition character d’ etc).

And there’s not a duck pond in sight.

Matt Risley

And if you like that, you definitely need to check out the far funnier, but just as cutting political laugh-a-thon In The Loop. Even better, head to our interview with one of the movie’s lead writers (he also does Peep Show) Jesse Armstrong…..

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