Following the death of a young Washington intern, crime reporter Cal McCaffrey (Russell Crowe) gets caught up in the murky world of politics and big business.
At the time of broadcast, the original BBC series State of Play was critically acclaimed and has remained one of the best pieces of television this decade. For the big screen transfer, London becomes Washington, an oil company becomes a private security firm and Bill Nighy (somehow) becomes Helen Mirren. The story has also been updated to reflect issues such as the battle' between old and new journalism and the influence of media conglomerates over news agendas.
Russell Crowe is well suited to the role of slobby journalist Cal McCaffrey, with his straggly hair and expanding waistline; much more so than Bard Pitt, the original occupant of the role. Ben Affleck is slightly stilted as the chisel-jawed Congress, but he was another late entry, replacing Ed Norton. Furthermore, although both are meant to be old college friends, there is very little chemistry between the two, which thus distracts from the morale quandary Cal finds himself in. There are well written roles for the two lead females, Rachel McAdams as journalist 2.0 and Helen Mirren as the ball-breaking editor, although at times, the roles do feel slightly clichéd.
Last King of Scotland helmer Kevin MacDonald does struggle though with his first big Hollywood film. For a political thriller, there isn't much thrilling about it, and when the action finally does come, it feels forced, as if it has been inserted to fill an `action quota'. Also, the final twist at the end of the film feels tagged on just for the sake of having it there.
Despite strong performances, the watered down State of Play is a political thriller strangely lacking in thrills.