State Of Play – Review (Film)

State of Play is a taut thriller based on the BBC TV Mini Series of the same name, which aired in 2003.

The film tells the story of reporter Cal McAffrey (Russell Crowe) and his attempt to solve the suspicious death of a congressman’s research assistant. Added into the mix is the fact that the congressman, Stephen Collins (Ben Affleck), is an old friend of McAffrey’s.

As the pieces of the puzzle unravel McAffrey is teamed with up and coming political blog writer Della Frye (Rachel McAdams) and the clash of McAffrey’s old school journalism and Frye’s new school journalism mean they often have different ideas about how the story should be presented but they work together to break the story.

 

State Of Play takes a sinister turn as the plot progresses and the shadow of the PointCorp operation is cast over the whole story. McAffrey and Frye have to redouble their efforts as they get nearer to the truth and find themselves in deeper than they could ever have imagined.

This is a film full of great acting – Russell Crowe will most likely get the plaudits and rightfully so, this is a very natural performance from him. Affleck really brings a believable character to the screen with congressman Collins as the politican watches his political and personal life unravel in front of the media.

Dame Helen Mirren as McAffrey’s boss puts in a classic ‘ballbreaker’ turn as Cameron Lynne and Jason Bateman is at his best with a restrained and darkly comedic role.

It was great to see Rachel McAdams step out of the rom-com safety zone (Wedding Crashers/Family Stone etc) and her bold perfomance as Della Frye cements her as a potential ‘A-List’ actress from here on out.

I would be interested to see the original mini-series to find out what was changed in bringing the time down from 6 hours to just over 2 hours. It’s been reported that a fair bit of the story was shuffled to reduce the running time and turn the story into a cohesive film experience.

It’s difficult to go too much into the story without giving anything away and it would be a real shame for you to read what happens here rather than watch it for yourself.

State Of Play isn’t your average thriller – it’s been a while since I’ve seen one as well done and with as strong cast performances as this. I really enjoyed The International but State Of Play is Premier League in comparison.

I strongly recommend you check this one out whenever you get a chance.

Rating: 9/10

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A Simple Plan (1998) – Review (Film)

simple-plan

It wasn’t until 10 minutes into this film that I realised something was wrong. Couldn’t put my finger on it at first. Then I realised… the Coen Brothers film I wanted to see was called Blood Simple, not A Simple Plan. 😮

So I was watching the wrong film and yet the opening was good enough to keep my interest.

Two brothers, Hank (Bill Paxton) and Jacob (Billy Bob Thornton – who is brilliant in this role), along with Jocob’s friend Lou (Brent Briscoe) stumble across the wreckage of a plane buried in the snow in their local woods.

Upon investigating they discover the pilot is dead and the cargo is a holdall containing millions of dollars.

Hank wants to call the authorities but Lou and Jacob think they should keep the money. They feel no-one is looking for the money and it can only be from something as dodgy as a drug deal or robbery as no-one has seen anything about it in the media and the plane has been here a while.

They agree to hold onto the money until Spring and when the snow clears if no-one comes looking for the money the three of them will split the money and leave town, going their seperate ways.

What follows is a complex and taut thriller as the character’s plan unravels a piece at a time, with Hank desperately clinging to the thread that is, just about, keeping everything together.

There are betrayals and shocks as the body count grows and the lies they tell to try and cover their tracks become increasing strained.

The relationship between the two brothers – Hank who graduated college and has a wife and a baby & Jacob, who is a bit of a loner, not very intelligent but good hearted – is well formed and believable and Billy Bob Thornton gives a great performance as Jacob.

Bridget Fonda stars as Hank’s wife Sarah who ends up becoming one of the more calculating and manipulating forces at play in the whole thing.

Her idea of sneaking some of the money back on the plane to fool anyone that finds it into thinking it’s undisturbed is genius when you think about it but ultimately it’s what occurs while Hank and Jacob are doing this that starts the whole sequence of events and kicks off the main part of the film.

There are plenty of moments where I was thinking ‘don’t do it, quit now it’s not worth it,’ but the fact of the matter is none of us know how we’d react in that situation.

The film’s tagline ‘Sometimes good people do evil things’ completely sums the film up.

All of the main protaganists are, in the grand scheme of things, good people – but $4m is a lot of money and the lengths they are willing to go to are, while not normal, certainly believable. Mainly because once they make the initial decision they end up being railroaded into making tough choices and some of the incidents the plot hinges on are born more out of panic than anything that’s been planned.

Director Sam Raimi (Evil Dead, The Grudge) and writer Scott B. Smith deliver just under two hours of good old fashioned twists and turns and for me the ending is a real highlight. It’s nice to see a film that doesn’t pull punches and isn’t reaching for a “Hollywood ending.”

Although I watched this in error, it certainly wasn’t a mistake and I’d recommend it to anyone that likes films with a bit of thought involved and that enjoy some suspense.

Rating: 8/10