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State of Play(2009)
Handsome, unflappable U.S. Congressman Stephen Collins is the future of his political party: an honorable appointee who serves as the chairman of a committee overseeing defense spending. All eyes are upon the rising star to be his party's contender for the upcoming presidential race. Until his research assistant/mistress is brutally murdered and buried secrets come tumbling out.
For more about State of Play and the State of Play Blu-ray release, see State of Play Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on August 20, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Russell Crowe, Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams, Helen Mirren, Jason Bateman, Jeff Daniels
Director: Kevin Macdonald
» See full cast & crew
State of Play Blu-ray Review
A six-hour BBC miniseries gets repackaged as a brisk and absorbing feature film...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, August 20, 2009
America is no stranger to political scandal. Long gone are the days when people placed their faith in the men and women elected to represent their interests. Today's 24-hour cable news cycle uncovers every indiscretion, every sin, and every shady deal that tarnishes the political arena, and loops it, ad nauseam, until another foolish senator is caught engaging in something more vile than the last. Politicians have lost their way, the media has become little more than a roving pack of insatiable jackals, and the entire adversarial monstrosity has begun to sustain itself with its own perverse propaganda, effectively transforming each and every viewer and voter into a disgruntled citizen and disillusioned cynic. Is it any wonder then that even a sharply written, unpredictable thriller like director Kevin Macdonald's State of Play feels so intensely familiar?
When a young congressional staff member named Sonia Baker (Maria Thayer) commits suicide, the ensuing emotional response from her congressman, Stephen Collins (Ben Affleck), sends the media into a tizzy. Was he cheating on his wife (Robin Wright Penn)? Was he involved with Baker? As the media's endless accusations and background probes tear the congressman limb from limb, his old college roommate, a street-smart Washington Globe reporter named Cal McAffrey (Russell Crowe), is assigned to cover the story by the Globe's no-nonsense editor, Cameron Lynne (Helen Mirren). With the help of an upstart Globe blogger named Della Frye (Rachel McAdams) and a by-the-book detective (Harry Lennix), McAffrey connects the unsolved, seemingly unrelated murder of a common thief to Baker's apparent suicide, two deaths that trace back to PointCorp, a private defense contractor Collins has been actively investigating. As it all begins to unravel, a senior congressmen (Jeff Daniels) comes to Collins aid, McAffrey hones in on a club promoter (Jason Bateman) with ties to PointCorp, a mysterious assassin (Michael Berresse) emerges from the shadows, and the Globe staff is forced to choose between a numbers-generating story and the ugly truth.
Based on a six-part, critically acclaimed BBC television serial of the same name, State of Play explodes out of the gate and, quite frankly, never lets up. It isn't the action-packed, mile-a-minute thriller it initially appears to be, but it does require its audience's undivided attention, bouncing from tragedy to conspiracy to revelation with the tenacity and abandon of a more relentless drama. Information is uncovered at an exhilarating pace, confrontations erupt and subside within minutes, allegiances and friendships strengthen and shatter, and the plot unfolds without mercy. There's a palpable volatility pulsing beneath the entire film, giving each encounter and debate legitimacy and heft. Thankfully, the story itself remains cohesive and coherent throughout -- with a script penned by Matthew Michael Carnahan (Lions for Lambs), Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton), and Billy Ray (Shattered Glass), it had better -- nailing the tension between news divisions, the precarious relationship between a reporter and his sources and subjects, and Washington's distaste for its investigative brethren.
To his great credit, MacDonald was clearly able to keep the production on point, even through casting changes, script rewrites, and down-to-the-wire alterations. While Brad Pitt and Ed Norton were originally attached to the lead roles (Pitt exited due to creative differences, Norton stepped aside due to a scheduling conflict), McAffrey and Collins have been meticulously re-tailored to Crowe and Affleck's sensibilities. Their deft performances not only ground the multifaceted tale in some semblance of reality, they transform what could have been a lofty, overcrowded genre pic -- a sprawling whodunit that peaks too early and twists too late -- into a measured, performance-driven ensemble piece, graciously stepping aside to give McAdams, Mirren, Daniels, and Bateman the opportunity to take center stage. Each actor revels in their character's every reaction and hesitation, elevating the proceedings while simultaneously producing an unexpectedly convincing multi-character study that captivates as readily as it entertains.
That's not to say State of Play is the mind-blowing, genre-buster some critics have hailed it to be. The story suffers from one twist too many, plowing on when it should have simply ended, and the script, as well-constructed as it is, features a few too many scenes that have already appeared in its screenwriters' other films (most notably an argument between Crowe and Mirren that pops up, almost verbatim, between Meryl Streep and Kevin Dunn in the third act of Lions for Lambs). Still, MacDonald's adaptation is compelling and engrossing, offering a slew of excellent performances, a series of searing exchanges, and an intriguing commentary on the integrity of the media at large. It isn't as confident or composed as its six-hour BBC counterpart -- at just two hours, that would require a cinematic miracle -- but it is a strong genre outing worthy of any filmfan's time and attention.
State of Play Blu-ray, Video Quality
Produced from high-quality digital intermediate files, State of Play's striking 1080p/VC-1 transfer is a technical beauty. Yes, cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto's color palette is restrained and, yes, MacDonald's grim-grainy-n-sometimes-gritty vision of Washington isn't as easy on the eyes as other, shinier Hollywood productions, but the presentation itself captures everything Prieto and MacDonald intended their audience to see, from the tiny wrinkles on Congressman Collins' shirts to the grizzled stubble spilling down McAffrey's chin. Each and every frame is packed with detail -- the news room is brimming with paper clippings, print-outs, and legible on-screen text, Fergus' office is awash with natural edges and rich textures, and the bustling kitchen and crowded menu board of Ben's Chili Bowl diner (a must-visit D.C. locale that serves the best Chili Half-Smoke on the East Coast) represents the sort of reach-out-and-munch-it-all perfection I expect from every high definition presentation. Best of all, black levels are deep, delineation is relatively revealing, contrast is strong, and dimensionality is, dare I say, impeccable.
The technical transfer is proficient as well. Artifacting, banding, noise reduction, aliasing, and edge enhancement are MIA, and crush, while still a factor from time to time, doesn't undermine the integrity of the image. Softness affects a few shots, sure, but it all traces back to MacDonald's directorial decisions, not to Universal's admirable efforts. Simply put, State of Play looks fantastic. Fans, newcomers, and videophiles alike will be thoroughly pleased with the results.
State of Play Blu-ray, Audio Quality
State of Play is a chatty, conversational film, and Universal's efficient DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track follows suit. Dialogue is clean and weighty, nesting nicely in the center channel and drifting around the immersive soundfield when necessary. Voices are warm, crisp, and perfectly prioritized, even when joined by the chattering denizens of a local diner, a noisy news room, or a heated congressional hearing. Interior acoustics are incredibly effective -- apartments, meeting halls, and conference rooms have distinct personalities -- and ambience, while subdued on occasion, is persistent and commendable. LFE output isn't going to wake the neighbors, but still makes several notable appearances (even though the majority of them involve the film's lumbering musical score). Likewise, the track's directional effects aren't aggressive enough to trick listeners into glancing over their shoulders, but channel pans and spatial accuracy are impressive (particularly for a flick populated with so many hushed exchanges). All things considered, State of Play's DTS-HD MA mix neatly and easily fields everything MacDonald tosses its way.
State of Play Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Unlike the standard DVD, the Blu-ray edition of State of Play features a solid chunk of supplemental content, primarily in the form of an exclusive U-Control Picture-in-Picture production track. A traditional audio commentary would have certainly improved matters -- I would have liked to hear from director Kevin MacDonald more than I did -- but fans of the film, particularly of its actors and their performances, will find a lot to love about this polished supplemental package.
State of Play Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
While it suffers from one twist too many, State of Play is a stirring, at-times thrilling exploration of the shift of modern media power, the precarious relationship between politicians and journalists, and attempts from both camps to manipulate and color the truth. It isn't as involving or complex as the original BBC miniseries, but as feature film adaptations go, it rarely falters. Universal's Blu-ray release is just as satisfying, offering an excellent, exceedingly faithful video transfer, a proficient DTS-HD Master Audio track, and a decent helping of supplemental content. Ultimately, it's a rewarding, well-produced disc from Universal that deserves to find a comfortable spot in your collection.
State of Play: Other Editions
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State of Play Blu-ray, News and Updates
• State of Play Announced for BD - June 11, 2009
Universal Studios Home Entertainment has announced the release of 'State of Play' on Blu-ray on September 1, day-and-date with the DVD. This political drama starring Russell Crowe, based on an acclaimed BBC miniseries, will feature a 2.39:1 1080p video presentation, ...
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