Is state of play Oscar-worthy?

KATHMANDU: Newspapers, reporters and editors get to reveal the slimy world beneath the smooth spin not such nice power players are putting atop the horrors they’re hiding. It results in writers becoming cynical and digging deeper, often at the risk of life and limb as we have seen and in the process bringing down wrong doers in all spheres of life. State Of Play is a timely story that is evolving around us.

Says Pete Hammond, “Political intrigue, corruption, scandal, sex — it’s all here in this Americanised adaptation of the much acclaimed 2003 six-hour BBC miniseries. With the story shifting from London to Washington DC, the focus is now on a married congressman who is chairman of an important committee overseeing defence spending. He is a rising star in his party until his beautiful young assistant; with whom he has been carrying on a clandestine affair is suddenly found dead. Things get complicated when his old friend, Washington Globe investigative reporter Cal McAffrey is assigned to track down the story and try to uncover the identity of the killer. With cub blogger Della Frye forced on him as a partner, the two journalists step into a government cover-up that is much bigger than anyone could have imagined.

Four days before production kicked off, Brad Pitt dropped and Russell Crowe replaced him in the key reporter’s role. It’s hard to imagine Pitt in this part since Russell Crowe, dishevelled-looking with long hair and about 30 pounds overweight owns it in his best performance since A Beautiful Mind. As his blog-savvy young partner, Rachel McAdams firmly captures the essence of a determined but inexperienced young journalist in over her head. A sharp-tongued and feisty Helen Mirren is ideal as the newspaper boss more concerned with profits than integrity as she spouts out lines like, “I don’t give a s—t about the rest of the story. We are going to press!” Ben Affleck also has his best screen outing in a while as the ambitious congressman Stephen Collins, who gets caught with his pants down. A bevy of fine supporting turns include Robin Wright Penn as Collins’ unhappy wife; Jeff Daniels, oily and smarmy as a conservative politician, who knows more than he lets on, and especially Jason Bateman, stealing scenes as a slimy PR guy who provides some key details.

Not only does State of Play work well as a political thriller, its pointed take on the failing state of newspapers and lax journalistic standards could not be more timely. Stunning wide screen cinematography and lavish sets add to the authenticity of a movie that in its best moments can be compared favourably with similar ‘70s classics like All the President’s Men.

As the dense plot unfolds, it gets a bit confusing trying to keep all the players straight, particularly towards the end.

A nail-biter beautifully staged by director Kevin MacDonald (Last King of Scotland) where Crowe plays a cat-and-mouse game in an underground garage with a mysterious armed suspect he has just confronted.

Four major ones in this case. Matthew Michael Carnahan (The Kingdom), Tony Gilroy (Duplicity, Michael Clayton), Billy Ray (Breach) and an uncredited Peter Morgan (Frost/Nixon, The Queen) are the superstar team of scribes, who each took a crack at whittling down a six-hour miniseries into a two-hour flick.

Look for Bateman and the art directors responsible for the massive newspaper office to turn up on the shortlist for next year’s Academy Awards.”