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Illicit pleasures

There is something about the political thriller genre which makes them fall into the guilty pleasures category. A well made political/espionage thriller with clever twists is definitely a thing of beauty. Obviously the challenge is to make it complex, but not undecipherable with twists that still remain believable. It is a fine line and it is perhaps no wonder that many films don’t quite bring it all together. I like a clever device, like the usb drive in the bottom of the coffee cup*, and I don’t even require much action. Good acting and script writing essential.

So it was with delight that I watched State of Play the other night. Solid, clever, twisty turny with good acting. Not a film that will necessarily go down in history as an incredibly important piece of cinema, but well executed and definitely worth doing. Half way through I remembered that I had, in fact, seen the BBC two-parter of the same story – with some subtle differences and obviously this was relocated to Washington. Fortunately I didn’t remember the denouement, so that pleasure remained intact. The performances were good – I am not a natural Russell Crowe lover but he was very engaging and Ben Affleck was quite convincing in his role. Helen Mirren was playing a role she pretty much could have dialed in, but she’s Helen Mirren, she wouldn’t do that! She was thus fab as always.

It got me thinking about these kinds of thrillers. Are they a leftie fantasy with their elaborate corporate/elite conspiracies or are they a right wing polemic on the dangers of concentrated power? I’m pretty sure that it is more the former in State of Play than the latter – the focus on the military-industrial complex and their influence and conspiracy smacks of Oliver Stone and JFK, so drags the film more to the evil capitalist left favouring side of town. But at times the focus on conspiracy and corruptibility does seek to undermine the legitimacy of government in these films in a right-wing libertarian sort of way – big government is evil, everyone but the lone crusader can be corrupted etc. And there is an element of that within State of Play also. Perhaps I will have to drag out all my conspiracy thrillers and examine in more depth – sounds like a highly indulgent way to spend a weekend.

*The Recruit


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