The fourth directorial effort from George Clooney has him playing an up and coming presidential candidate for the Democrats, Governor Mike Morris. The focus of The Ides of March, however, is that of his junior campaign manager, Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling). Ambitious yet idealistic, Meyers works beneath the world-weary and jaded Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman), but his talent has been spotted by rival campaign manager Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti), who works for the competing Democratic candidate.
The Ides of March is essentially a film about the inevitability of corruption. It’s a downfall of sorts, and the film is dramatically quite effective, even if the statements it makes are nothing new. The moral complexities aren’t on par with something like ‘The Wire’, but nevertheless it does show how good people can end up doing bad things. The cast is top notch, and one of the more impressive male line-ups of recent times. They are joined by the likes of Marissa Tomei and Evan Rachel Wood, who get to play conniving and innocent respectively, though the gender imbalance is a little disappointing. Whilst essentially a drama, the films delves into thriller territory and the pacing never becomes sluggish. Alexandre Desplat’s score is subtle but on the few occasions it comes to the fore, his work is exemplary.
At first I assumed that this was going to be one of Clooney’s films in which he pushes his moral and political views to the fore (think Good Night, and Good Luck, Michael Clayton or Up in the Air) and whilst Governor Morris’ policies are clearly left wing wet dreams, the film’s portrayal of what goes on behind the scenes is so negative that it practically negates all the good work Morris hopes to do when in office. This makes for an interesting narrative, and those who are turned off by Clooney’s politics would be doing themselves a disservice to automatically skip the film.
The solid direction and fantastic cast really sell The Ides of March, and whilst I was disappointed at the raw deal the only two prominent females got, both Tomei and Wood are excellent also. There’s nothing particularly original here, and the script may be unsubtle at times (there are a couple of moments where it feels like the film is grabbing you by the shoulders and saying smugly, “See what we did there?”), but as far as tales of one’s fall from grace go, there’s a subtlety to the character arc that really rings true. Recommended.Rating: