State of Play: Who can you trust?


May 7

In State of Play a reporter, Cal McCaffrey, is investigating a possible suicide by the aide of Congressman Stephen Collins, who had been his college roommate. Collins approaches him for help after it becomes public that the married Collins had been in a relationship with his aide. To further complicate matters, McCaffrey had an affair with Mrs. Collins and the three had been friends in college. Pretty much everyone’s relationship status could be marked “complicated”, except cub reporter Della Frye played by Rachel McAdams.

Frye is hungry for a story and is paired with McCaffrey after she uncovers some details he considers sensationalist but their boss, Mrs. Lynne considers marketable. As the details unfold the two reporters must rely on each other even though they have differing philosophies as to what news is and when it should break. McCaffrey is old school. Get the whole story, document, confirm, then publish. Frye is tweet it while it’s happening and figure out the implications later. In this movie, the implications are everything.

On the surface the movie’s plot seems pretty basic. All the corporate entities, the newspaper, the private security firm, the government come off as the usual greedy, self-interested blood suckers. These are always the villains it’s easy to hate and to which we can comfortably assign blame. The interesting part of this movie is personal self-interest. State of Play explores the extent to which individuals will go to get what they want and cover their mistakes. The plot narrows from national conspiracy to personal agenda.

State of Play explores ethical questions: Is it ethical for the press to allow profit and competition to compromise the process required to get at the truth? Is the practice of hiring private security forces to direct military initiative in the name of our government ethical? How do cohorts with differing practices and philosophies arrive at a mutually satisfactory ethical position? What are the ethics of frienship? What do we owe one another?

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