Opening 18 Jun 2009
Writing credits: Matthew Michael Carnahan, Tony Gilroy, Billy Ray, Paul Abbott
Principal actors: Russell Crowe, Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams, Helen Mirren, Robin Wright
Cal McAffrey (Russell Crowe) is an investigative journalist for the Washington Globe in Washington D.C. The secretary of young, ambitious politician Stephen Collins (Ben Affleck) dies; McAffrey questions the death and picks up a trail leading to Collins’ extramarital affair and his connection to Pointcorp, a private military contractor with the Department of Defense. The friendship between McAffrey and Collins goes back to the days when both were in love with Anne (Robin Wright Penn), who married Collins in the end. Another thread runs between McAffrey and Della Faye (Rachel McAdams). McAffrey, a traditional print journalist, finds news on the streets, talks to Deep Throat types and sits up late in a messy office to bang out articles for next morning’s front page. He says, “I’m a journalist – not a publisher.” By contrast Della is a new-age journalist who finds information on the internet and depends on bloggers. Complete opposites, they begin to respect and learn from each other. Their powerful boss, Cameron Lynne (Helen Mirren), stands by them, although her priority is to sell, and scandal sells best. I never realized how much suspense there could be in meeting a newspaper deadline.
My favourite actor was Jason Bateman as Dominic Foy, a scumbag who would do anything for the cash. He stands out in a supporting role amidst such heavies as Mirren, Crowe, and Affleck. Crowe was listed in an article by The New York Times as being “one of several male stars who is putting on weight,” but journalists don’t have to be skinny as long as there are XL T-shirts.
The theme is pertinent in our time when U.S. mercenaries hire out for jobs in Iraq and newspapers die at home. The settings are wonderful. It’s hard to imagine that the fantastic newspaper office was built on a sound stage in Los Angeles. Look at all that steel décor and glass. Other scenes occur near well-known landmarks in Washington D.C., e. g, Library of Congress, Maine Avenue Fish Market, Andrew W. Mello Auditorium, Ben’s Chili Bowl, the Watergate Hotel, etc. The film originated from the six-part 2003 BBC television miniseries. Director Kevin MacDonald and his team carefully condensed the main action to 127 minutes. In this exciting, gripping political thriller, it’s investigative journalism against political power hampered by human weaknesses. The plot twists in many directions up to the surprise ending. All in all, one of the best films I’ve seen this year. (Becky Tan)