Crowe hits the headlines again

PUBLISHED: 15:06 23 April 2009 | UPDATED: 16:08 07 September 2010

State of Play (15) Director Kevin Macdonald Starring Russell Crowe, Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams, Helen Mirren, Robin Wright Penn and Jason Bateman 125 mins Three stars This Hollywood adaptation of the lauded 2003 BBC mini-series would seem to be badly ham

State of Play (15)

Director Kevin Macdonald Starring Russell Crowe, Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams, Helen Mirren, Robin Wright Penn and Jason Bateman

125 mins

Three stars

This Hollywood adaptation of the lauded 2003 BBC mini-series would seem to be badly hampered by concerning itself with three things that people don't care about any more - serious newspaper journalism, intelligent political thrillers and Russell Crowe as a leading man.

Cultured types used to fret about the weight of unread books hanging over their heads. Now it is the weight of unseen DVD box sets.

The glory of Paul Abbot's original was that it unfolded over six Sunday evenings - plenty of time to tell its tale of a newspaper team investigating the story of a murder and cover-up surrounding a Labour MP properly, without demanding a half decade time commitment from its viewers.

This movie version, from the director of The Last King Of Scotland and Touching The Void, is perfectly fine.

Initially Crowe, who started on the film with just two weeks' notice after Brad Pitt dropped out, looks like he's going to flounce around and spoil it with his long hair and his little bits of business - the quirky things a star will add to his character to delineate himself from the rank and file.

But he quickly settles down and is subdued and committed enough to remind you why he became a star in the first place.

Affleck is also very good as the congressman and Mirren gives good Bill Nighy as the editor. The three screenwriters - including Michael Clayton director Tony Gilroy - have done a decent job of compressing it into two hours.

I can't remember that much about the TV series but what I can recall is how it ended, which rather killed the suspense for me.

Although the TV series had us hooked waiting to find out how it ended, the denouement wasn't ultimately that important, the series was about the pleasure of the journey. The movie, though, is more of a just-the-facts-ma'am affair.

Relocated to Washington, the movie consciously harks back to All The President's Men, in its look and subject matter but also in being an old school newspaper movie.

There was a time when audiences were riveted by "Hold the front page" cliches of the genre. But judging by the shifting and sighing of audience members around me - that time may well be long gone.


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