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State of Play

Year: 2009
Studio: Universal
Director: Kevin McDonald
Writer: Mathew Michael Carnahan/Tony Gilroy/Billy Ray/Paul Abbott
Cast: Russell Crowe, Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams, Helen Mirren, Robin Wright Penn, Jason Bateman, Jeff Daniels

As well as a love letter to the military/industrial complex paranoia films like Three Days of the Condor, this film also harks back to the age of the gumshoe-style journalist who knew grunt work, had sources and poked into places people didn't want them.

To further illustrate the disconnect and tap into the whole 'death of print' zeitgeist that's so popular now, it pits hero Cal (Crowe) against Miss new media, an upstart blogger (McAdams) who does little but re-tweet celebrity gossip and whom the corporate overseers of their cash-strapped paper love because she pulls in ad dollars and is cheap to run, unlike the expensive, results-risky likes of Cal.

When the secret mistress of a friend of Cal's is murdered it puts him at the centre of a conspiracy. His fiend, a congressman (Affleck) is after the crooked private contractors cleaning up in Iraq and Afghanistan and making a fortune no matter who gets hurt, and Cal finds himself in the position of having to try and break the story, resist pressure from his long-suffering editor (Mirren) to turn something in and protect his friend's name even though he's pivotal to the whole mess.

It's a good set-up and a very decent corporate conspiracy. With such a solid group of writers behind it director McDonald has a lot to put his teeth into and doesn't need to do a lot to make the movie tense and exciting.

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