Day By Day

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Liberal Paranoia on the Big Screen

"She Who Must Not Be Named" and I went to see "State of Play" yesterday. It's one of those films that is highly rated by the community of critics, but has bombed at the Box Office. Hollywood insiders blame the film's poor performance on the bad press its two main characters, Ben Affleck and Russell Crowe, have suffered in the past few years, but their are other factors that might be considered, not the least being the film's political slant.

State of Play is a competently-made conspiracy thriller. There is a lot of talent on the screen. Ben Affleck is adequate in one of the main roles while Russell Crowe once again dominates the screen in the other. Rachel McAdams is lovely in a supporting part while Helen Mirren reprises her boss lady persona in another. Director Kevin MacDonald keeps things moving along and DP Rodrigo Prieto does a nice job with the camera. I wonder how many viewers noticed that the political scenes were shot in a completely different style from the newspaper ones.

Yes, newspapers and politics. Once again we are in liberal-land where virtuous and incorruptible reporters expose the deeply corrupt and dangerous core of Washington politics. One half expects Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman to pop up in cameos. They don't, but some scenes are filmed at the Watergate [wink, wink].

Based on a BBC TV series that has been well-received by the British left-wing critical community, "State of Play" provides a fascinating glimpse into the paranoid left-wing imagination. All of the tropes are there -- a corrupt political boss from rural America who spouts Jesus-speak; the crusading young congresscritter determined to expose a dangerous national security conspiracy; a plot on the part of military contractors [a thinly disguised Blackwater] to construct an internal surveillance system that threatens to crush civil liberties; a "new ownership" taking over a venerable liberal newspaper [read Rupert Murdock] and inhibiting its ability to function as a tribune of the people; the unstable and violent military veteran; the callow and superficial blogger who serves as a foil for our reporter hero and gradually learns what real journalism is all about. You get the picture. This is the left-wing view of America in spades.

The plot is fairly straightforward. A couple of people die mysteriously. A grizzled old reporter with a nose for news suspects a link and begins investigating it. A sex scandal enmeshes an up and coming young liberal congressman. The veteran reporter and his cute sidekick gradually, and at considerable personal and professional risk, expose the fact that a sinister conspiracy ties all of them together. Then comes the twist at the end. Some of the good guys turn out to be baddies. Ho hum. The film ends with a plea to save print journalism on the grounds that only grizzled old print journalists can expose corruption in high places.

"State of Play" is thus an exercise in liberal nostalgia, hearkening back to the glory days of Watergate. If you are a liberal go to see it. You'll like it. You can wallow in memories of a time when print reporters were able to bring down a Republican administration [despite having ignored the shenanigans of the previous two, equally corrupt and far more dangerous, Democrat administrations]; relish watching Helen Mirren dominate Russell Crowe; enjoy the quirky newsroom characters; and most of all have your innate sense of moral superiority confirmed. If you are a conservative or intelligent moderate, there's not much here to see other than Russell Crowe being chased through a parking garage by a deadly assassin. That's not enough. Don't waste your time, and especially don't waste your money on this one. Wait for it to show up on cable. You won't have to wait long. With its low box office, this stinker will be on the little screen soon.