Putting in arguably his best performance for years, Russell Crowe takes the helm in this unmissable edge-of-your-seat political thriller.

Based on the 2003 BBC TV six-parter starring John Simm, David Morrissey and Kelly Macdonald, State of Play builds on the serial’s successful plot and character formula to produce a razor-sharp big screen drama which explores the world of political and corporate corruption.

Ben Affleck plays fast-rising US congressman Stephen Collins whose mistress, a former research assistant, is found dead in suspicious circumstances.

During a probe into a series of seemingly unrelated murders, Cal McAffrey (Crowe) an investigative journalist and Collins’ former college room-mate, finds himself tasked with solving the case.

McAffrey teams up with enthusiastic rookie reporter Della Frye to untangle a cover-up involving some of the country’s top political and corporate movers and shakers.

Crowe does a tremendous job of embodying the character of the dishevelled, gruff but likeable hack McAffrey. Long-haired, overweight and fond of the whiskey, Crowe’s McAffrey convinces as a journalist who still thrives on the chase of a story but is disillusioned with the ‘internet first’ mentality of today’s press.

Crowe particularly impresses when McAffrey is confronted by an armed suspect who hunts him down in a car park. We can almost smell his fear as he fights to save alive. And when he struggles between feelings of loyalty to his friend and his friend’s wife - with whom he had a brief but meaningful affair years earlier.

Although Crowe and Affleck make unlikely college buddies - their real-life eight year age gap is obvious - Affleck’s acting is probably the strongest it has ever been. With his slightly high-pitched voice he can come across as weak but here he puts in an emotional yet powerful turn.

There is strong acting from all parties including Rachel McAdams as feisty online reporter Della who gets her big break under McAffrey’s guidance. Her on-screen chemistry with Crowe is surprisingly charming as their relationship goes from friction to mutual respect.

And Helen Mirren, in a supporting role, is suitably ballsy as Washington Globe editor Cameron Lynne.

Director Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland) handles this complex story with ease and portrays Washington as a city of danger and corruption. He also presents a realistic and interesting insight into the world of daily newspapers - from story gathering to ethics.

Great for us journalists - and pretty fascinating for everyone else too I suggest.