Cinema Review: The Ides of March

Simon Collings reviews The Ides of March starring George Clooney and Ryan Gosling.

Currently on General release at UK Cinemas.

Adapted from Beau Willimon’s 2008 play Farragut NorthThe Ides of March is a tense political drama co-written and directed by George Clooney, starring Ryan Gosling. It focuses on the Democratic presidential candidate race where Stephen Myers (Gosling) is the sought-after, idealistic Junior Campaign Manager for Mike Morris (Clooney) who discovers that politics and fair-play fail to go hand-in-hand.

With the campaign in full swing, Myers is contacted after a debate by rival Campaign Manager Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti) who wants him work for the opposition.  Flattered by this approach, Myers reluctantly meets with Duffy yet declines his offer, stating he believes in Morris and that he wouldn’t want to let him down.  Disappointed, Duffy declares that all candidates are not as clean-cut as they seem and warns Myers that he too will become cynical and corrupt.

During this time, Myers himself has casually begun a sexual relationship with a young intern who, as he later discovers, has also been involved with the seemingly perfect Morris – a devoted family man.  As things get more complicated, Myers becomes more disillusioned and begins to question his views on how to succeed in politics.

With his earlier political success of Good Night, and Good Luck (2005), George Clooney is back on familiar ground with The Ides of March.  As director, co-writer, and co-producer he clearly has a passion for politics and in particular America’s role throughout the world.  Seen as a liberal, Governor Morris, on the surface, is portrayed as a cross between JFK & Obama – apparently the perfect combination.  He wants to end all American wars, abolish capital punishment and states his religion as The Constitution of the United States – all sounds too good to be true.  The role of Myers could be seen as a symbol of the American public being swept up in this hysteria and the promise of better times ahead but in order to achieve this we must break some ‘rules.’  Clooney is not attacking politics; he’s simply accepting that nobody’s hands are clean when it comes to making the world a better place.

Politics aside, The Ides of March is an entertaining slice of cinema.  You do not have to be an avid viewer of Question Time to appreciate what’s on offer here. The cast is superb with the likes of Giamatti and Philip Seymour Hoffman adding class to the line-up whilst Gosling continues to impress in the leading role.

Clooney’s direction is assured as he handles the ensemble effortlessly and he too looks good as a president-to-be.  The script however, is somewhat weak in places and at times predictable.  The film is too conventional and there seems to be nothing new being offered.  Most people view politics as a dirty business – you’d have to be incredibly naive to assume different.

With this in mind it would have been better for Clooney to concentrate more on the political material rather than tailoring to a mass audience.  Gosling is good, and will become a great screen actor, but perhaps a more serious on-screen persona would have added depth to his character.

As a result, The Ides of March could have been an even better political thriller much like Good Night, and Good Luck which inevitably received a handful of Academy Award nominations.  It is doubtful The Ides of March will receive the same amount of critical praise but at least it makes politics seem interesting and appealing.

FMV Rating: ***

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