Genre: Political Thriller
Synopsis: A team of investigative reporters work alongside a police detective to try to solve the murder of a congressman’s mistress
About: Hitting theaters a week from Friday and landing on the 2007 Blacklist as the number 2 most popular script.
Writer: Matthew Michael Carnahan – Revisions by Billy Ray, Tony Gilroy, and Peter Morgan.
State of Play may be coming to theaters in a couple of weeks but why wait that long when you can get the lowdown right here and now. I won’t even charge you ten dollars. And yeah, it’s the shooting script. So we’re talking a shot-for-shot match here baby.
As I mentioned before, State of Play was the number 2 script on the 2007 Black List. Right behind a little script called “Brigands of Rattleborge”, which just so happens to be number 6 over there on my Top 25. Why isn’t State of Play above it? Cause I never read the damn thing. Everything about it sounded boring as hell. Look at the title: “State of Play”. What the hell does that even mean?? It’s stupid. And the logline doesn’t help matters: “A team of investigative reporters work alongside a police detective to try to solve the murder of a congressman’s mistress.” Ooh, can’t wait to dive into that one. If anything, it seemed like State of Play was trying its best NOT to interest me. Operation Success.
But then that damn trailer hit in high definition and my interest did a 180. This looked like a real movie. And I mean come on. Any film that believes its good enough to survive a Ben Affleck casting has got to be awesome. All of a sudden “State of Play” sounded kind of cool. The title began to make sense. It’s like a “state” of “play”. Or the “play” that goes on in the “state”. Meaning like the government. Clearly works on many levels.
I think you know by now what this film is about. A woman’s been killed, hit by a morning subway train, and that woman is linked to congressman Stephen Collins. The problem with this is that Collins is married. When he finds out that the woman has been killed, he’s put in a rough spot. His heart is broken because he loved this girl. But he can’t emote because he has a wife. On top of that, he has to survive the media’s determination to turn it into a scandal or his career is over.
Cal, the seasoned reporter, just so happens to be old friends with Collins. The paper knows this and comes down hard on him. They have a chance to break a huge story with inside information if only Cal does what Cal needs to do. So Cal is put in that classic reporter predicament. Do I do my job or do I help a friend? That’s the central theme of State of Play and it keeps poking its head up the deeper Cal digs. It’s also why I don’t love this script. I don’t exactly have sympathy for a character who’s willing to sell his friend out to get a goddamn newspaper story.
Luckily State of Play focuses just as much time on its mystery – and its mystery is a good one. Turns out the woman who was pushed in front of the train wasn’t just a congressional aid. She was working for a corporation called Pointcorp that has begun privatizing armies to fight in the Middle East with further plans to privatize armies and even government here in the United States. Collins, who is vehemently against privatization, is lobbying congress to stop these corporations. So Pointcorp bought this woman to relay all of Collins’ secrets.
In the meantime, Collins’ wife ain’t as mad as she should be. In fact, she’s more humiliated than angry. And it certainly doesn’t help matters that she’s sleeping with Cal. Yes, Collins’ best friend and newspaper reporter Cal. So you can see how intricate and complicated all of this gets.
Somehow Cal has to navigate this jungle to get the story, as well as avoid Pointcorp, who’s willing to do anything to make sure the story doesn’t break – putting almost everybody’s life in jeopardy. And of course in the end, he has to make that decision. Get the story or keep the friend?
I liked State Of Play. I thought it was well done for a genre I don’t particularly like. But if I were a reporter, the story I’d be breaking is just how behind the times State of Play is. Rachel McAdams (my favorite actress EVER behind Audrey Hepburn) plays web blogger Della, who seems to be thrown in the mix for the sole purpose of feeling “current”. But if you eliminated her character it wouldn’t affect anything because the whole drive of the movie revolves around Cal trying to get the story in by print time for tomorrow’s paper. Um, excuse me, but when the fuck does that happen anymore? Someone gets shot these days and five minutes later it’s on Youtube. Stories get written in real time, published as keys are being pressed. When the hell do they have “newspaper deadlines” for breaking news anymore? In that sense, this could be the last time (sans period pieces) they make a movie like this. I think it also inspires a curiosity for a movie that fully explores the behind-the-scenes going-ons of the lightning fast news world of today. There’s a good movie to be written there.
Even so, State of Play is a solid thriller and a script worth reading – even with the knowledge that Ben Affleck is playing one of the leads. :)
[ ] trash
[ ] barely kept my interest
[x] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
What I learned from State Of Play: One thing I do when I’m enjoying a script is trace back to where the feeling started. It’s a great way to learn what works in a screenplay. In this case, a nameless woman is killed by a subway train. That’s not necessarily interesting. We meet Collins, who’s told that one of his assistants, a woman, was hit by a subway car. His reaction tells us there was something between them but we don’t know what. This makes the script more interesting but not necessarily “I have to keep reading” interesting. It’s when we see Collins break down in the press conference and learn that not only did he have a sexual relationship with this girl, but that he’s married. That’s when we become truly interested. Because we’re intrigued by characters who are put in terrible and/or complex situations. Because these situations force our character to make a difficult choice. And that choice is always interesting, whether we agree with it or not. What does he say to his wife? Does he tell her the truth? What does he say to the media? Does he tell *them* the truth? What does he tell his friends? And in the case of State of Play, what does he tell his friend who works for the very people he can’t tell anything to (the media). You see how complicated and interesting this gets? That’s good writing.