The Mothman Prophecies DVD: Review By Brian Gallagher

State of Play is about as engrossing a political and journalistic thriller that you can possibly come across these days and it’s the All the President’s Men for the 21st Century
  • Feature
  • Picture
  • Sound
  • Extras
  • Replay Value
Practically everything. An astounding film with tour de force performances on all sides of the camera.
Some more special features would've been sweet...
The plight of this film is fairly sad to me, because I knew it would be an awesome film, but I also had a feeling that no one would really give a sh*t. Sure, we have an amazing cast here with Russell Crowe, Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams, Helen Mirren, Robin Wright Penn, Jeff Daniels, Jason Bateman and even the wonderful Viola Davis in a smaller role... but, dang it, it's one of those films you actually have to absorb and, you know, think about. Dang, thinking? That's for books and stuff, right? Well it's too bad people missed out on this in theaters ($38 million domestic gross, despite a strong 84% "Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes) - likely because Universal dumped it in April because of that whole thinking stigma - because this is one hell of a taut thriller that is still one of my favorite films of the year.

One of the great things about this film is that it's one of the few films to come out in many years that takes a serious and honest look at the craft of journalism while intertwining a tense political thriller within it. The film could be best described as a marvelous hybrid of All the President's Men (probably the last film that took a look at journalism so seriously) and the fairly-recent political masterpiece The Contender. The film starts out with a seemingly random event that ends up being connected to the highest levels of government. We open in a random part of Washington D.C., seemingly normal, when a man starts dashing through the scene, trying to escape an unseen pursuer before he's eventually killed by said pursuer, who also shoots down a guy on a bike delivering a pizza... although he doesn't die. We then see Cal McAffrey (Russell Crowe), veteran journalist for the fictional Washington Globe, who comes by when the police are investigating at the scene of the crime, trying to pry out details of why one man was killed and another was in intensive care. But at the same time a bigger story is developing with the death of Sonia Baker, the lead researcher for Congressman Stephen Collins (Ben Affleck) in his investigation into the military contracting firm PointCorp, who are seen as mercenaries to some. When McAffrey finds a few connections between his story and the Collins story, being worked up by young Globe blogger Della Frye (Rachel McAdams), the two join forces on the story, which is hampered at times by McAffrey's personal relationship with Collins, his former college roommate, and as this story builds and builds, you can't help but getting further sucked into this wonderful world.

Actually, now that I think about it, the film's underwhelming performance shouldn't be that much of a surprise since it was written by three of the best but most underappreciated screenwriters in the biz. Matthew Michael Carnahan (The Kingdom), Billy Ray (Breach, Shattered Glass) and Tony Gilroy (all the Bourne movies and writer-director of Michael Clayton and Duplicity) are simply phenomenal writers but their films, with the exception of Gilroy, haven't been able to reach a mass audience as of yet, and it seems that State of Play is the latest in this line of films. The writing here is so precise with a tremendous use of tension and fantastic and realistic dialogue that it's such a shame this somehow couldn't find an audience, despite the massive star-power in the flick. You're roped into this world from the very first second and they don't let you go until the very end (which is capped off by quite a wonderful end-credit sequence where we see how a newspaper is actually made at the printing press). While I'm not a print journalist by trade, and I don't work in a newsroom like this, I do have a degree in journalism and it's wonderful to see a film like this accurately portray modern journalism and, not only that, but it also touches on the current state of print journalism versus online journalism (I won't say the "b" word...). The sometimes prickly relationship between Crowe's McAffrey and McAdams' Reese seems incredibly accurate and it's a lot of fun to watch this old school vs. new school back-and-forth between those characters.

There isn't a weak performance in the entire film, with even the spectacular Viola Davis turning up for one of the smallest roles in the film, a coroner that is trying to put up with McAffrey while working. Everyone truly shines here from Russell Crowe as Cal McAffrey to Harry Lennix as the investigating detective, from Rachel McAdams as Della Frye to the wonderful Helen Mirren as the pitch-perfect Globe editor. Ben Affleck keeps his wonderful comeback train rolling with a terrific performance as beleaguered Congressman Stephen Collins, Jeff Daniels does a fine job in a smaller turn as a higher-up Congressman, Jason Bateman is, well, awesome as always in a tiny role as Dominic Foy and I even liked Robin Wright Penn, who for some reason I normally don't care for, as Collins' wife. While these are all tremendous actors here, one of the reasons that absolutely no one falters is the direction of Kevin Macdonald.

Macdonald made one of the most impressive leaps from doc*mentarian (Touching the Void) to fictional feature filmmaking with the astonishing film The Last King of Scotland, where he directed Forest Whitaker to a Best Actor Oscar and perhaps one of the most powerful and gripping performances of all time... and that was in Macdonald's fictional feature film debut! Macdonald certainly proved that The Last King of Scotland was no fluke with sensational direction of this knockout ensemble cast and proving he can accurately depict tension solely from his direction, which this film has in spades. Kevin Macdonald is certainly a filmmaker I'll be keeping a very close eye on from now on.

State of Play is one of the most powerful and gripping films you'll likely see all year with a phenomenal cast and crew throughout the entire production. It's just a shame that more people didn't see this in theaters, but I surely hope many many more see it on DVD.
Sadly we don't get a ton of bonus material here. We get started with some Deleted Scenes, one of which is a longer version of the press conference Stephen and Anne Collins' press conference and another with Della talking with Sonia's roommate, and that's it. Bah. They aren't bad scenes, but they were justifiably cut and I wish we would've gotten more.

The only other thing we get here is The Making of State of Play, and it's your standard making-of featurette but we get a glimpse of something very interesting in a shot of the script's title page, and that is that the wonderful screenwriter Peter Morgan also did revisions on the film, although he wasn't credited on the film along with the three main writers, the equally-wonderful Matthew Michael Carnahan, Tony Gilroy and Billy Ray. We get some interesting stuff about the differences between this film and the original BBC mini-series that the film was based off of, and also in finding director Kevin Macdonald. We also hear some nice bits about how the actors actually talked to Washington Post reporters in training for this film and how they brought on Washington Post metro editor R.B. Brenner as a consultant on the film. They also talk about how much of the film was filmed actually in Washington D.C. and I was rather intrigued that they used two different kinds of looks and even different types of cameras with the journalistic world and the political world, which you're not exactly conscious of when watching the film, but it makes total sense. It's a very thorough and rather entertaining look at the making of this film and, even though we only get two special features on this disc, this last one makes up for the lack of quantity with a wealth of quantity packed into one 19-minute featurette that is quite wonderful.
The film is presented in the anamorphic widescreen format, in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio.
The audio is handled through the Dolby Digital 5.1 format.
We get a slick modular design here that looks pretty damn good. The front gives us shots of all four main actors - Crowe, Affleck, McAdams and Mirren along with a title card and a few critic quotes that is all laid out nicely. The back gives us another quote, some random shots from the flick, a nice synopsis, small special features listing and the billing block and tech specs. It doesn't sound like much, but it's put together quite nicely.
State of Play is about as engrossing a political and journalistic thriller that you can possibly come across these days and it's the All the President's Men for the 21st Century. It's a wonderful and intriguing look at the dynamics between traditional and online journalists (no, not "bloggers") set in a wonderfully corrupt political landscape that isn't far removed at all from our current political climate.

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Comments (2)

  1. Brian Gallagher


    6 years agoby @gallagherFlag

  2. Brian

    Nice. I expected less. I got more. That's the way I like it...

    6 years agoby @brianFlag