State of Play
It was a relief to watch a thriller film where the protagonists aren’t involved in gun or fist fights every ten minutes. It has good pacing and manages to combine contemporary concerns with references back to classic journalism films like All the President’s Men.
However its depiction of newspaper writing fails to really be convincing as it often seems to have to many “hold the press” cliches. Worse still for a film about politics there really is very little politics in it. Ben Affleck’s Congressmen has a few hobby horses but absolutely no political philosophy to speak of and no-one ever talks about policy, party or even deal making.
The journalists are the good guys taking down an evil corporation and their paid political stooges and even the honest politician is ultimately self-serving and corrupt. The net result is characters that are one-dimension and a dull cynicism about the political establishment that does not try to address any of the tough issues of a representation democracy governed by rules laid out in the 18th Century.
It fails to even engage with the American mercenary industry and its consequences, despite the supposedly central position this element of the plot is meant to occupy. It even appears to suggest at one point that what matters is not what private security companies do abroad on behalf of the U.S. government but actually the risk they represent to domestic liberty. At this point the navel gazing is really unbearable and you have to go back to it being a slick well-made thriller that is better than most of the fare currently playing at the multiplex.