On the Big Board
|Maybe it doesn't deserve to be #2 for the year, but this is a great condensed version of the excellent British miniseries. Great pacing and urgency.
|The terrific cast makes the movie compelling and interesting. Ben Affleck continues his strong comeback.
|While I prefer the BBC miniseries (check it out), this was a pretty close adaptation.
Behold, the passion of Ben Affleck. From stoner-movie mainstay to Oscar-winning screenwriter to Hollywood royalty to the punchline of a million celebrity gossip jokes, Affleck has been trying to resurrect his career after a string of bombs and breakups. 2006’s Hollywoodland drew raves for his acting, but passed through the box office without much notice; his directing debut Gone Baby Gone was well received, but supporting actress Amy Ryan (who was robbed at the Oscars) caught all the attention. Now, Affleck tries to jump back into the limelight with a starring role in Working Title’s State of Play, adapted from the critically acclaimed BBC miniseries.
Affleck plays embattled (fictional) congressman Stephen Collins, who has an eye on the White House until his mistress turns up dead. Gritty investigative journalist Cal McAffrey (Russell Crowe) starts trying to connect the dots, and away we go.
Affleck only picked up the role after Brad Pitt discarded it. Pitt, attached to the project from day one, disagreed with the direction of the screenplay and bailed; this forced scheduling difficulties that forced Edward Norton, the original choice for Affleck’s role, to drop as well. Still, if your two leads drop and your cast still consists of Affleck, Crowe, Helen Mirren, Jason Bateman, Rachel McAdams, Robin Wright Penn, and Jeff Daniels, you’re doing pretty well.
As for those rewrites – bit of a complicated tale there, too. The script was penned by Matthew Michael Carnahan, who basically sits around writing angrily about politics and such (Lions for Lambs, The Kingdom.) Late in the game, however, Carnahan’s daughter fell ill, and a rotating cast of writers turned in rewrites, including Tony Gilroy (The Bourne Identity) Peter Morgan (The Queen) and Billy Ray (Shattered Glass.) Pitt, apparently, felt that the original was the one to go with, and departed late in the game, despite having worked with director Kevin Macdonald (Last King of Scotland) on the project for some time.
All confusion aside, however, there’s still a lot to look for in State of Play. The six-hour original miniseries was beloved in England and appreciated domestically as well, drawing raves from critics as well as fans. Macdonald’s stated aim is to stay close to the original while pulling influence from political thrillers of the 1970’s; he’s cited All the President’s Men as a model.
Despite the all-star roster, it remains hard to judge how the film will fare at the Box Office. Beloved though the source material may be, most US film-goers won’t have heard of the miniseries; Sex and the City this ain’t. Furthermore, political thrillers haven’t exactly lit the world on fire as of late. Two superstar casts took on international intrigue last year, and neither packed ‘em in: Charlie Wilson’s War finished with $66 million despite Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts and Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and the aforementioned Lions for Lambs only managed a paltry $15 million on the backs of Tom Cruise, Meryl Streep and Robert Redford. State of Play will have to be marketed just right to top those totals. (Sean Collier/BOP)