A political thriller in spirit of 70s paranoia films like All the President's Men, The Parallax View, and Three Days of the Condor. Clearly, the newspaper aspect of the film means it owes most to All the President's Men, and it is a worthy follower. Obviously, the source material of State of Play is only a BBC miniseries, not the greatest political scandal in the history of this country. What this film lacks in historical import, it replaces with strained relationships, adultery, the prospect of the outsourcing of the military to one uber-corporation (think, oh, Halliburton), and the death of the newspaper. Needless to say, there was a dearth of ground to be covered.
Now, State of Play is by no means earth-shattering. While never approaching the realm of the primarily pedestrian, Kevin MacDonald's non-documentary follow-up to The Last King of Scotland is merely solid. Here, too, there are not any acting performances that fall short, but as with the other, the film lacks the quality of being exceptionally memorable. Shortly after leaving, all thoughts of the film have gone, quickly retreating to the recesses of one's memory. It is not a crippling shortcoming, and boredom never sets in while watching.
All that being said, the film is good and never feels predictable, a good trait to be sure. Ben Affleck and Jason Bateman are great, but Rachel McAdams's character is not penned with enough depth for her to show off her talent and charm (both of which are prodigious). Russell Crowe is Russell Crowe and does seem best suited to be the character actor he has resumed being of late.
Again, State of Play falls short of being great, but you'll not regret having seen it.