Clark Kent wouldn’t have blogged. Damon Runyon wouldn’t have had a website. Why? Because there’s no romance in on-line journalism. The newsroom is romantic. Cigarettes and type-writers are romantic. Journalism is romantic. But not on-line news. The very act of sitting alone at a keyboard is an anathema to journalism. Reporters need to be out in the world, chain-smoking, nursing a hangover, living dangerously. Even a so-so reporter-movie like State of Play still makes reporting look like a great institution. And the idea we might lose newspapers to blogs is soul-destroying. The world needs hacks, not stay-at-homes.
This is the kind of movie you expect from an actor turned director: subdued, character-led, respectable. No-one goes Herzog their first time out. Even Mel Gibson waited until his third movie before he went bananas. Actors – leading men, especially – want their first movie to announce: I’m serious. Witness Bob Redford directing Ordinary People; Mel directing The Man Without a Face. Ben Affleck has studied this model carefully during his wilderness years; chosen his source material from an approved writer (Dennis Lehane, who also wrote Mystic River); picked a lot of pug-ugly non-actors for “authenticity”. Michael Bay mightn’t love it; John Cassavetes would.