Blackwater has provided Hollywood writers with a new target. After tobacco companies, law firms, the government, pharmaceutical companies and what not it’s now a trend to use private military companies. They’re even more scary than all the others. They don’t need to go out and hire a sniper, half the company consists of snipers. Ok, so maybe the government is even actually scarier as they can control your entire social life if necessary, but still. In “24” earlier this year a private military company, which already was being investigated by a senator, tried to release a chemical weapon on domestic soil so that the public would say the government can’t protect its people and private military companies would get more contracts and power. In State of Play a similar plot but instead of Agent Jack Bauer we get Cal McAffrey, journalist. These are going to be the longest days of his life.
State Of Play grabbed me by the throat in the first 10 minutes when we’re witnessing two assassinations. Here a mood is set that nobody is safe and someone could get killed at any time. The movie doesn’t loose that grip until the end-credits roll. It’s a triumph considering The International dealt with kind of the same basis but never managed to do this. At one point Russell Crowe’s Cal McAffrey is being stalked in a parking lot by the assassin. This scene alone will probably have you on the edge of your seat.
State of Play doesn’t just want to be another thriller in which an all-powerful company uses all its resources to set the world to its hands, it also want to make a statement about the state newspapers nowadays reside in. Once they were the foundation of news and they successfully survived the introduction of the Television. However, with news now available to almost everybody only a mouse-click away the times they are changing. Something happening today, that’s old news tomorrow when it’s, finally, in the paper. The dead-tree-media versus the new-media. That media is represented here by the beautiful Rachel McAdams as blogger Della Frye who has to learn a whole new way of reporting if she wants to movie beyond just the gossip angle of a story.
The movie isn’t perfect though. There is a bit of over-plotting like the twist at the end or the fact that Cal McAffrey isn’t only befriended with Congressman Stephen Collins (Ben Affleck) but also has slept with his wife Anne (Robin Wright Penn) who still wants something between them. This part made it feel like more like an episode of As The World Turns. Maybe it’s because this movie is based upon a 6 hour mini series now crammed into a 127 minute movie. Things had to be scrapped I guess, but they could’ve done the scrapping more thoroughly. It’s as if they wanted to mention it, but didn’t have the time to do it so they just put in a scene or two or three in which it is addressed.
I think this movie, and the 7th season of 24 present us with a fascinating question: do we really want private companies to take over military duties? I’m not happy with the thought a company, with the target of making money, is in my backyard with an entire army of mercenaries. They have that in third world countries and they perform coups.