State of Play (2009)

(In theaters, April 2009) It has been a long time since the last solid thriller to focus of the world of journalism, and this one acquits itself fairly decently. Russell Crowe is compelling as the crusty veteran that anchors the picture, although more could have been done to resolve the old-paper/new-blog dynamics between him and Rachel McAdams. Handled with competent care, the picture manages to wrestle a complex story that touches upon a number of sizzling contemporary issues. This being said, the picture twists one time too far: While the last plot curve-ball strengthens the lead character’s ethical dilemma about his definition of good journalism, it undermines a lot of the picture’s solid thematic material against private military contracting. But that’s a small last-minute complaint about a thriller that’s quite a bit better than most: There’s a lot going at this intersection between politics, business, romance and truth-seeking, and it’s to the filmmakers’ credit that the result remains intelligible throughout. There’s a refreshing contemporary feel to the picture’s musings about journalism at a time where the very fundamentals of the profession are being questioned from all angles. With a bit of luck, this may become a time capsule of the times, like so many of the seventies’ most competent thrillers.

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