The Ides of March is a gripping, political thriller packed with tremendous performances and supremely confident direction by George Clooney.
On the final days of a Democratic presidential primary presidential, a young campaign adviser — Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling, Drive) — finds himself in a tangled web of double-dealing, secrets and betrayal.
Stephen is the right-hand man to senior adviser, Paul Zara (the fantastic Philip Seymour Hoffman, Moneyball) and a veteran of campaign wars. Despite his experience, Stephen has just enough hope and optimism left to firmly believe in Governor Mike Morris (George Clooney), who he thinks will turn the county around with his innovative agenda and moralistic approach.
Gosling portrays Stephen like one of those young billionaires, so self-assured that nothing can touch him, but he adeptly captures that feeling of desperation of someone used to being fully in control unraveling when they lose it. And once Stephen finds himself in an unimaginable position, he realizes how quickly his beliefs can be shattered to the core of everything he once so firmly believed in.
Ides could be considered an ensemble film as its excellent cast perfectly nails their roles. Clooney as the embodiment of the seemingly flawless candidate; Paul Giamatti plays the fast-talking adviser for Morris’ rival; Evan Rachel Wood plays a seductive and troublesome intern; Marisa Tomei is a scoop-chasing cynical reporter and Jeffrey Wright is an influential governor whose endorsement all but guarantees the primary, which he’ll exchange for a prestigious White House position.
Each character is vital in showing the dynamics of the political web, with each holding the potential to ruin everything in Stephen’s plan. Clooney is becoming a magnetic force behind the camera as well as in front of it.
He evokes powerful imagery, like a heated discussion between two characters silhouetted against a bright, screen-dominating American flag or another where Stephen is forced to engage in shady deals and operating and being engulfed in shadows.
Clooney also gives his actors time to think and let the audience try and figure what’s turning around in their heads — a fun exercise with talent the likes of Gosling, Hoffman and Giamatti.
The film is based off a play by Beau Willimon, who shares screenwriting credits with Clooney and Grant Heslov (Good Night, and Good Luck). The various twists aren’t surprising to anyone who’s paid any attention to politics in the last 20 years, but the dialogue is tight and the actors make every scene in the last act feel like a matter of (political) life and death while expertly suggesting that in the political realm, no one wears ‘the white hat’ of the good guy.
If your mindset was that all politicians are shady and they only work to satisfy their own best interests, Ides of March definitely isn’t going to change your mind about the political process, but it’s a fascinating look ‘behind the scenes.’
Backed by an all-star cast; a dynamic script and brilliant directing, Ides of March is a winning ticket worthy of award nomination.
Rating: 8 out of 10