Posted by: on Nov 8, 2011 | No Comments

No doubt about it, George Clooney is a beautiful man. That is just one of the reasons that this political thriller, The Ides of March, works so well. He plays the part of Governor Mike Morris, a candidate running for the position of Democratic presidential nominee. And his beautiful mug makes you believe every word he says, even when we know he is lying through his perfect teeth. His campaign team is made up of Steven (Ryan Gosling), and Paul (Philip Seymour Hoffman). And, in fact, Gosling steals the show as the idealistic press secretary who discovers that ideals do not always win out against pragmatism (or outright dirty dealing). It is an excellent performance, and his slow decline from a man with principles to a man willing to do anything to defend those principles is clear to see. The very last scene delivers the audience some Inception-style ambiguity and a blood-freezing stare from Gosling, which leaves you wondering whether the transformation is quite complete. Hoffman and Paul Giamatti are also brilliant as the two opposing campaign managers, though Giamatti’s screen time is just a little too brief. Evan Rachel Wood, playing a lithe young intern, provides a feminine touch to this male-dominated film. Not that it goes well for her.

At its heart this film is a cynical indictment of one corner of the political system. The film is set around the Democrats, and in fact the Republicans are only referred to as a faceless mass of malicious voters, but this is not an attack on either party (though Clooney does manage to give some of his liberal ideas a bit of screen time). In fact, the film does manage to convey quite a simple message – idealists, and those unwilling to compromise or betray, will never win in a savage and cynical business. The endless cycle of late nights, dodgy deals, and impressionable young interns is destined to repeat itself for eternity. The back-stabbing promised in the name (The Ides of March was when Caesar got himself all stabbed up), does not come in a blaze of glory. Betrayals are accepted with the resignation that this is just how things work.

The theatrical basis for this film (it’s based on a play called ‘Farragut North’ by Beau Willimon) also manages to poke its head through the curtains, with minimalist sets, and a few, almost lengthy, monologues. Hoffman’s searing diatribe about loyalty on the campaign trail particularly sticks in the mind. Directed by Clooney himself, The Ides of March follows a pattern that he has followed his entire career, both acting and directing; strong, intelligent men, resisting the pressures of the incompetency or amorality of those around them. This film bucks the trend of post-summer films. Normally, there is a quiet lull between summer blockbusters and winter Oscar-contenders, but this film definitely fills the void.

By Jim Haake