State of Play

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
State of Play Movie Poster Image
Parents recommend
Mature, well-acted thriller mixes violence and politics.
  • PG-13
  • 2009
  • 132 minutes

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 9 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 7 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The main characters all make morally ambiguous choices, and it's hard to tell who's "good" and who's "bad." Protagonists are adulterous, keep evidence from the police, lie, and are involved in illegal, violent acts. On the other hand, a journalist is willing to report the truth even if it means alienating a close friend.


An ex-military assassin executes a string of people involved in a central intrigue -- some of whom are innocent bystanders.


Discussion of sexual improprieties, including adultery, menage a trois, and a highly publicized political sexual scandal.


Language includes words like "s--t," "ass," "bitch," "screwing," "dick," "oh my God," and a couple of exclamations of "Christ!" and "f--k."


Featured products include Saab and Cadillac.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults drink (in bars, at home, and at work) and smoke cigarettes on several occasions.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this Russell Crowe/Ben Affleck thriller is a mix of violence, political intrigue, and sexual innuendo -- all mature themes that are unlikely to appeal to young viewers. Characters steal, drink, smoke, and lie to the point where it's unclear who's the victim and who's the victimizer. There's some strong language (including a couple exclamations of "f--k"), drinking, and smoking as well. Sexuality is more discussed (including conversations about adultery and three-ways) than shown, except for some flirting between a couple of characters.

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User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byvaleries6 December 3, 2017

We enjoyed this movie - very good acting & storyline.

For most part we liked this movie. We prefer less bad language , but given the rating pg-13 about the norm of today's rating system .
We find this combin... Continue reading
Adult Written byhelenmirrenrox June 29, 2011

Good Movie

Good movie.
There are two f**ks and some other words like B***h, S**t, and Da*n it. There is violence that is minor and some sexy stuff. One of the 'f... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byJoker912 February 23, 2017


Great political thriller with excellent performances
Teen, 13 years old Written bymasonlackey January 15, 2011

not too bad content wise but more likely appealing to older kids

very complex with enough action to keep you on the edge of your seats and twists and turns to keep you pushing play TWO BIG THUMBS WAY UP!

What's the story?

Seasoned Washington Globe reporter Cal McCaffrey (Russell Crowe) is busy looking into two Georgetown murders when a pretty political aide winds up dead in an apparent suicide. To add some blog-worthy sensationalism to the story, Congressman Stephen Collins (Ben Affleck) was not only having an affair with the beautiful staffer (Maria Thayer), but he's also in the middle of a high-profile congressional hearing investigating a private security firm's alleged war crimes (think Blackwater). Cal and his eager young colleague Della (Rachel McAdams) try to track down the truth, but the story is complicated by his personal history with Collins, a good friend since college.

Is it any good?

Director Kevin Macdonald draws heavily from testosetrone-driven '70s political dramas like All the President's Men to frame his big-screen adaptation of the award-winning BBC series. Even the idea of a newspaper breaking important news is pretty '70s, since at this point we'd all find out via Twitter or Facebook whether a politician's girlfriend was murdered. Still, Crowe -- all slobbified with oily long hair, an extra 15 pounds of flab, and a cluttered old Saab -- is game for the throwback action. Unfortunately, Affleck is no Redford to Crowe's Hoffman. Sure, he's perfect for the part of a pretty-boy politician who somehow looks 10 years younger than his former college roommate, but he's no acting match for Crowe.

But you can thank the casting gods for the wonderful trifecta of supporting actresses -- Helen Mirren (as the paper's top editor), McAdams, and Robin Wright Penn (as Collins' betrayed wife, who once had an affair with Cal) -- each of whom goes toe to toe with Crowe. Jason Bateman is also brilliant as a flashy public relations hack, and Jeff Daniels is all political smarm as a corrupt senior congressman. Besides Affleck's underwhelming portrayal, there's one too many holes in the twisty plot. But even as an old-school thriller that falls short, STATE OF PLAY is still better than many of its peers.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the movie's message about the relationship between the media and politics. Do you think real-life politicians try to deceive the press -- and that real life reporters pretend and sometimes outright lie to get a scoop?

  • Teens: Do you and your friends rely more on the Internet than on print for news? Do you think newspapers are a sinking ship (as depicted in the movie)?

Movie details

For kids who love thrillers and politics

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