State of Play, Kevin Macdonald, 127 Mins, 12A

This remake of the TV conspiracy series is a hymn to the newspaper, and to old-fashioned thrillers

Paul Abbott's six-part BBC drama State of Play wasn't just one of the most acclaimed television events of 2003. It had such a following that it's hard to think of any British series that's garnered better reviews in subsequent years. The prospect of Abbott's labyrinthine yarn being unravelled for a two-hour Hollywood movie, then, is enough to make most right-minded people boycott their local cinema. But fear not, the new State of Play film is no ordinary remake.

It's directed by Kevin Macdonald, the Oscar-winning British director of The Last King of Scotland, and it's co-written by Tony Gilroy, who scripted the Bourne trilogy and Michael Clayton. They're both as skilful as anyone working today at brainy yet mainstream action and adventure, and neither of them tarnishes his reputation here. I can't remember when I last saw a more intelligent, gripping or substantial thriller. Most impressively of all, State of Play doesn't feel like a project that's left over from 2003, but one which evokes the classic paranoid conspiracy thrillers of the Seventies, as well as being bang up to date in its subject matter.

Taking over John Simm's lead role (and filling in for Brad Pitt, who dropped out at the last minute) is Russell Crowe, a Washington newspaper journalist who prefers to do his reporting the old-school way – on the streets rather than on the information superhighway. Compared to his peppy young colleague on the blog desk, Rachel McAdams, Crowe is a dinosaur: a tubby, beardy, shaggy-maned hack who's a dead ringer for Justin Lee Collins from The Friday Night Project. But he could have stumbled on to the story of his career.

He's just started sniffing around two alleyway shootings when he hears about another sudden fatality. The pretty aide of a crusading congressman, Ben Affleck, has either fallen or been pushed in front of an underground train. When Affleck announces her death to the press, he has tears in his eyes, and that's enough to spark rumours of a Clinton-Lewinsky type of working relationship. In a sly montage, gossip mutates instantly into statements of fact on the internet and the rolling news TV channels. For the media, the infidelity is far more noteworthy than the minor business of a young woman's death. But Crowe suspects that it might be linked to the earlier shootings, and they might all be linked to the private military contractors who were being investigated by Affleck and his assistant.

Crowe sees himself as being driven by his thirst for truth, but in State of Play every character has a personal agenda, however heroic they might wish to appear. Crowe's motives are muddied by his history as Affleck's college roommate, and by the fling he had with Affleck's wife, Robin Wright Penn. Meanwhile, his editor, Helen Mirren (in Bill Nighy's BBC role), is less interested in the truth than than by how the revelations will be received by the multimedia corporation that pays her wages. One of the themes that gives the film so much more weight than a standard murder mystery is the rise of cyberspace and the concurrent decline of (sob) the newspaper, a theme far more relevant now than it was when the TV series aired.

More and more characters, ideas and twists keep whizzing along at breathtaking speed, but Macdonald and his writing team keep things admirably lucid, unlike, for instance, a certain recent Bond film. And as outlandish as the plot might be – it is a conspiracy thriller, after all – it always seems to be happening to real people who work in real offices in a real city, with the cluttered desks and graffiti-smeared walls that implies. It's tempting to say that they don't make 'em like this any more. State of Play is, at heart, a tribute to the virtues of old-fashioned newspaper reporting, but it embodies old-fashioned movie-making virtues, too.

Also Showing: 26/04/2009

Outlander (114 mins, 15)

Never mind Monsters vs Aliens, the three-word pitch of Outlander is Vikings vs Aliens, as Jim Caviezel's spaceman crashes in 8th-century Norway with a slavering beastie in the hold. It should be a delirious B-movie, but it plods along with dreary seriousness, despite the fey Vikings' random accents and gleaming white teeth. Rent 2007's Beowulf instead.

Frequently Asked Questions about Time Travel (86 mins, 15)

This sub-Shaun of the Dead Britcom stars Chris O'Dowd, Dean Lennox Kelly and Marc Wootton as three losers who are in the pub when they're approached by Anna Faris, an agent from the future, and soon find themselves zipping back and forth through time. Leaving a distinct impression that it was written in the pub by someone just as geeky as its heroes, it's like one of those Doctor Who episodes that don't focus on the Doctor – except it's twice as long.

The Uninvited (87 mins, 15)

Ludicrously gothic Hollywood remake of Korea's A Tale Of Two Sisters. A teenager (Emily Browning) sees ghosts who tell her, in that cryptic way the undead are so keen on, that her father's girlfriend (Elizabeth Banks) murdered her mother. Given that the family lives in a New England mansion with its own wood and boat house, a few ghosts seems a small price to pay.

Shifty (90 mins, 15)

Two twentysomething geezers (Daniel Mays and Riz Ahmed) mooch around an English high-rise suburb, selling drugs and chatting about old times. The camerawork is dispiritingly uncinematic, but the terrific performances just about compensate. Making his big-screen debut, the magnetic Ahmed deserves to be a star.

The Grocer's Son (96 mins)

A city boy moves back to the absurdly scenic countryside to drive his aged parents' grocery van. Very pleasant and very French.

From Russia with Love (115 mins, PG)

Sean Connery goes to Turkey in his second Bond film. The series' high point? It's certainly the most faithful to the book.

Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, centre, are up for Best Female TV Comic for their presenting quips on The Great British Bake Off

Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules

Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'

Arts and Entertainment
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book

Arts and Entertainment
Panic! In The Disco's Brendon Urie performs on stage

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Radio 4's Today programme host Evan Davis has been announced as the new face of Newsnight

Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams performing on the Main Stage at the Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park, north London

Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Mathison returns to the field in the fourth season of Showtime's Homeland

Arts and Entertainment
Crowds soak up the atmosphere at Latitude Festival

Arts and Entertainment
Meyne Wyatt and Caren Pistorus arrive for the AACTA Aawrds in Sydney, Australia

Arts and Entertainment
Rick Astley's original music video for 'Never Gonna Give You Up' has been removed from YouTube

Arts and Entertainment
Quentin Blake's 'Artists on the beach'

Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beach

Arts and Entertainment
MusicFans were left disappointed after technical issues
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

    Finding the names for America’s shame

    The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears