Throughout my filmgoing life, one fact has held true no matter how much else has changed: I love crime movies. From the classic 70s genre flicks to the latest and greatest (which invariably copy those classic 70s genre flicks), I’m in heaven watching cops and robbers onscreen.
The best films in the genre number among my favorite films of all time — The Godfather, Goodfellas, Pulp Fiction, Miller’s Crossing, Out of Sight and Miami Blues, to name a few. But even those that fall short of classic have littered my top ten lists for decades — films such as L.A. Confidential, Shaft, True Romance, The Usual Suspects, The Departed and Gone Baby Gone.
Add The Town to that second list, and add Ben Affleck to the list of directors who know how to knock this material out of the park. Affleck, long an unfairly maligned actor, has emerged as an expert director of modern film noir.
It’s always strange to watch a film set in a place or milieu with which you have intimate familiarity. I remember seeing the Kevin Costner thriller No Way Out when I lived outside of Washington D.C. and the whole crowd murmuring when he hopped on a non-existent Georgetown Metro stop.
State of Play gave me that feeling in spades, as it’s set in a newsroom and deals with the struggling newspaper industry and the locking of horns between print and digital media — all things I deal with on a daily basis. So it’s full of scenes that ring true (the sloppy desk of Russell Crowe’s seasoned reporter character, the cartoony redesigns being forced on the paper by a corporation focused only on the bottom line) as well as scenes that are laughably false (a blockbuster story appears to go from the reporter’s typewriter to the front page without intervention by an editor or a lawyer, the Web department in a modern newsroom is confined to a handful of people in a side room marked with a sheet of typewriter paper).