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Rated 3 stars
by 221 people

ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Connecting the Dots
by Diana Saenger

A strong cast, including Russell Crowe, Helen Mirren, Ben Affleck and Rachel McAdams, sets the bar high for the crime/thriller State of Play. Infused with stories that splash across the headlines of today’s newspapers -- a congressman having an affair, corporate misconduct, a newspaper facing its demise -- the movie easily reaches that bar. It intrigues from beginning to end.

Cameron Lynne (Helen Mirren) faces the loss of her prestigious job as editor of the Washington Globe. Why? Because sales of the paper are down, and it’s up to her to keep the presses rolling. When a young woman believed to have committed suicide is linked to a congressional investigation of a corporate company, Cameron has her story.

With a long history as a senior reporter and a nose for news sharper than a blood hound, Cal McAffrey (Crowe) appears the most suited for the job. He immediately senses two recent murders are somehow linked to the woman’s death, but he wonders if he’s the right one to cover the story. Cal was once best friends with Stephen Collins, the Congressman heading up an important government investigation. When news leaks out that the woman who committed suicide was Stephen’s mistress, Cal treads even more lightly.

Della Frye (McAdams) is a young reporter eager to acquire bylines. While Cal is old school, she’s new day -- a blogger who dives in headfirst, sometimes not seeing the big picture. When Cameron assigns her to work on the story with Cal, they’re like water and oil. 

After Stephen shows up unexpectedly at Cal’s, stating his wife (Robin Wright Penn) has thrown him out of the house, Cal is uncertain what to do. He offers Stephen a place to stay and asks him some questions, but gets minimal answers.

The plot is based on a 2003 BBC miniseries, and a host of notable writers -- Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton), Matthew Michael Carnahan (The Kingdom)  and Billy Ray (Breach)-- pen a compelling story that’s not really about murder, infidelity or corporate corruption. It actually concerns two former best friends who love the same woman and now need each other’s help. It’s also about trust. Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland) directs with a fluid hand that never lags in creating tension between the layers of the story, each one more enticing than the last.

Crowe, constantly looking tired and hurried, once again nails his character. Cal’s career is on the line as he strives to find the truth in his story and meet Cameron’s deadlines while making Della realize that sometimes a news story involves doing mundane things. Yet Cal’s biggest struggle involves trying to learn the real facts of Stephen’s affair, and how many lines he must cross to help or denounce Stephen.

Mirren is a natural as the clock-ticking editor, and McAdams serves her part well as a fish out of water who jumps in -- sink or swim. Wright Penn does a great job as the restrained but wounded wife.

Affleck comes across as stellar in this film; I think it's one of his best performances. Stephen goes from a man with a near perfect life to suddenly having everything spin out of his control. Affleck goes deep into a role that requires heartfelt sorrow, deep regret and humility. 

State of Play, one of the best films so far this year, is a great pick for mature audiences.

(Released by Universal Pictures and rated “PG-13” for some violence, language including sexual references, and brief drug content.)

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