State of Play

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(2009) ★★★★

Washington Globe journalist Russell Crowe is sniffing around a street crime scene – two victims, one shooter. But a bigger story is about to fall into his laptop. Because one of the victims was an assistant to US congressman Ben Affleck. The party’s ready to throw Affleck to the wolves and he needs Crowe’s help in fighting gossip and speculation with hard facts. To Crowe, it’s a story. To the cops, it’s a case. Hollywood’s reworking of the 2003 BBC TV series is in safe hands – director Kevin Macdonald is the talented Brit behind The Last King of Scotland, and he ensures the conflict-of-interest plot remains focused on the relevant points of interest. The film looks good too, obviously inspired by the Washington Post setting of the great 70s Watergate conspiracy thriller All the President’s Men. (It also shows how little Washington and Westminster has learned since Nixon and Watergate.) Helen Mirren is a feisty replacement for the original’s editor, Bill Nighy, although Crowe maybe goes a bit overboard with the shabby newshound bit – jeez, he’s scruffier than most of the guys I worked with on the NME. But he’s on solid ground here, a stubborn hack doggedly going about the grubby business of news gathering. “Did we just break the law?” wonders young colleague Rachel McAdams. “No,” growls Crowe, “that’s what you call damn fine reporting.” For the greater good, he’d have us believe. In the end, of course, there is no greater good. Just lesser evils.

Certificate: 15

Duration: 127min