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A view on Blu-ray and DVD video by Leonard Norwitz

State of Play [Blu-ray]


(Kevin Macdonald, 2009)



Review by Leonard Norwitz



Theatrical: Andell Entertainment/Bevin-Fellner

Video: Universal Studios Home Entertainment



Region: ALL (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 2:07:08.136

Disc Size: 32,937,699,441 bytess

Feature Size: 29,373,247,488 bytes

Average Bitrate: 22.471 Mbps

Chapters: 20

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: September 1st, 2009



Aspect ratio: 2.4:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: VC-1 Video






DTS-HD Master Audio English 3603 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3603 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 /
48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 24-bit)
DTS Audio French 768 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 24-bit
DTS Audio Spanish 768 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 24-bit
DTS Express English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps / 24-bit



English (SDH), English, French, Spanish, none


Extras (Hi-Def):

• The Making of State of Play – in HD (18:45)

• 2 Deleted Scenes – in SD (3:39)

• U-Control: Picture-in-Picture cast & crew interviews & behind-the-scenes footage

• U-Control: Washington D.C. Locations


Exclusive to Blu-ray:

• BD-Live 2.0




The Movie: 5

The movie opens like a blast from a shotgun: A man races on foot through streets and stores at night.  He gets hit by a car but careens on to happen on a hideout among the trash bins.  Alas, to no avail - his pursuer appears the moment our hapless victim sticks his head out.  Death is just two shots away.  The same fate is in store for a passing cyclist.  Seemingly unrelated, a young woman meets her death at a subway platform.  As news of the woman’s death reaches Congressman Stephen Collins (Ben Affleck), he is overcome with unexpected grief just as the media has him on camera.


While scruffy veteran journalist Cal McAffrey (Russell Crowe) chases down the story of the shootings he begins to make connections to the woman by way of Collins, his erstwhile college roommate.  The tabloid implications of Stephens’ tears – he now admitting to having had an affair with her – is being blogged to kingdom come by the newspaper’s young Internet bloggy reporter, Della Frye (Rachel McAdams).  An uneasy alliance between Cal and Della eventually materializes (erasing no memories of Cary Grant & Rosalind Russell or Dustin Hoffman & Robert Redford – but we like them anyhow), while she eyes him as the dinosaur he is and he tries to teach her something about the value of pens and investigative depth. 




Meanwhile their editor (Helen Mirren) impresses Cal with pressures of her own from the paper’s owners: sagging sales at the top of the list, which, in turn, leads to dictates that would never would have entered her mind ten years ago, let alone escape her lips.  We worry that the only way a newspaper can stay alive is to become the New York Post – or worse.


State of Play gets an able assist from Jeff Daniels as a senior Congressman, whose every utterance leads us to suspect there is more to this guy than political posturing – and not in a good way.  Better still is Jason Bateman as a PR man for the Blackwater-like firm that Collins is investigating, and who is the likely culprit behind the killings.  I like the way Macdonald lets Bateman devolve over a series of brief interviews.  No pressure, just scare the piss out of the poor guy. 


Image: 7/8  NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were ripped directly from the Blu-ray disc.

The first number indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray video discs on a ten-point scale.  The second number places this image along the full range of DVD and Blu-ray discs.


Lots of shadowless blacks throughout the film support its secretive dramatic intentions.  Don't take these scenes too literally – I couldn't imagine working in such lighting conditions, whether the newsroom, the congressman's office or the hearing rooms – my eyes would fall out.   The lighting style is most effective, drawing us into the mystery: the principal actors in each scene is carefully, differently, yet artlessly lit.  Flesh tones are spot on when not filtered.  I ran into no distracting artifacts, enhancements or noise reduction.  The print was spotless, as expected.
















Audio & Music: 7/7

Huge bass implosions at quasi-climactic moments in the film are powerful enough, though I was not always convinced by their appropriateness given the context.  Otherwise, ambient environmentals are convincing and effective; the dialogue, which takes up a good deal of our attention, is properly and cleanly presented stereo front.  I felt that some of Russell Crowe's mumblings were comparatively more subdued than I wished for. 


Operations: 6

The menu is laid out like other Universal Blu-rays. Arrows tell you which way to direct your remote, and the bonus feature instructions are intuitive. The chapter menu includes buttons for U-Control in case you want to approach those functions from that point.  U-Control opportunities appear now and then for PIP and pop-ups re D.C. locations. 


I might as well lodge a complaint that is likely to be of long duration: Universal seems to have given up on unique title-related art work for their discs: they're all the same lately – and, as such, are neither interesting nor all that easy to read.




Extras: 5

In place of an audio commentary Universal offers a scene specific PIP on U-Control.  That works.  It’s certainly far less uncritical than the back-slapping EPK we endure in the Making-Of featurette that extols the BBC original and then decides to remake the series into a movie for the American market anyhow.  I liked the Washington Locations pop-up data and Google Earth graphics on U-Control: The two deleted scenes, presented in widescreen SD, deserve their place on the cutting room floor.


Recommendation: 6

Is there a remotely plausible plot or popular culture trend connection unexploited from the collective plotting of this screenplay? I think not.  More complex does not necessarily add depth, and State of Play is a good case in point – on its own terms or compared with Paul Abbott's original series.  In this case, it simply becomes less substantial, less believable.  The amazing thing is that Kevin Macdonald managed to make something resembling a gripping thriller despite the script.  He certainly has a feel for locations and the way his characters inhabit them.  I admit to a restrained tear as the entire newsroom staff gathers to attend Cal’s typing out his story at the movie’s end.  That scene had BIG Hollywood Movie written all over it.  It was iconic in a way that much of the rest of the movie was simply clichéd.


Leonard Norwitz
August 19th, 2009



About the Reviewer: I first noticed that some movies were actually "films" back around 1960 when I saw Seven Samurai (in the then popular truncated version), La Strada and The Third Man for the first time. American classics were a later and happy discovery.

My earliest teacher in Aesthetics was Alexander Sesonske, who encouraged the comparison of unlike objects. He opened my mind to the study of art in a broader sense, rather than of technique or the gratification of instantaneous events. My take on video, or audio for that matter – about which I feel more competent – is not particularly technical. Rather it is aesthetic, perceptual, psychological and strongly influenced by temporal considerations in much the same way as music. I hope you will find my musings entertaining and informative, fun, interactive and very much a work in progress.

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