Movie #127 2021: State of Play (2009)

Yes, I accidentally watched two Kevin Macdonald movies in a row, but Good Lord, they could not be further apart in terms of quality and entertainment value. Once again, I scramble for my notes to help me because I can’t remember a single thing about this tedious nothing of a movie.

State of Play is one of Macdonald’s earlier feature films, and like the majority of work, there’s a ‘real life’ element to it in that it’s something that one may mistake for a true story. In reality, it’s a movie that’s actually based off an old British TV show, which was apparently much more interesting. Remember when House of Cards was rebooted and based off an old British TV show? Yeah, it’s like that. Only this is much less successful.

IMDb lists the movie’s synopsis as follows:

When a congressional aide is killed, a Washington, D.C. journalist starts investigating the case involving the Representative, his old college friend.

– State of Play, IMDb (

To be honest, I don’t remember that at all. All I remember is Russell Crowe faffing about and looking alarmed for a couple of hours whilst Rachel McAdams did her best to help. The fact that I don’t recall the plot to this movie probably tells you something about the film itself.

State of Play - State of Play Photo (5701259) - Fanpop

My notes say, and I quote: “Who knew you could make investigative journalism and a suspected murder so boring? Even the title screams “come with me if you want to sleep”.” Turns out I wasn’t impressed at the time either, so no wonder my memory for State of Play is so blank.

As you’d expect, I’m relying on my notes for the rest of this review for obvious reasons.

Firstly, State of Play suffers from having a great cast but completely unlikeable characters. I simply did not care about a single one of them… Except for Viola Davis, but purely because she’s Viola Davis (she’s literally in one scene only, which is a sin in itself). If only they’d replaced Helen Mirren (who gets a much more meaty role) with Davis then I might have been more inclined to give a shit. McAdams and Crowe give great performances too, but the writing is so meh that it appears to all be for nothing. 

State of Play,' With Russell Crowe: Fleet Street in Washington - The New  York Times

On a more positive note, the script is well-paced and moves swiftly and seamlessly from one moment to the next, I’ll give it that. However, it feels like a movie that was made for the sake of making a movie, not because anyone behind the scenes was especially passionate about it. Think Spotlight but if Spotlight was fictional and devoid of heart. This film is like the cold, calculating, black sheep older brother of the aforementioned 2015 Oscar winner. 

Whilst this is a film that should have been right up my alley (corruption in Washington, journalists caught in a juicy moral scandal), Kevin Macdonald instead somehow crafts something that is so forgettable that even I wasn’t invested in what happened to its subjects by the end. A real shame because I really liked The Mauritanian. Maybe he should just stick to his true story schtick, because that seems to be where his real strengths lie.

I get what this movie was trying to do. There are some semi-decent plot twists but nothing you won’t see coming if you’ve ever watched Homeland or Designated Survivor (both of which will keep you entertained for longer than this movie ever will).

Overall, State of Play not memorable, not unique, and a waste of the talent within it.

State of Play is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video in the UK.

TQR Category Ratings:

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