“It doesn’t matter what you thought. It matters what you did. It matters what you didn’t do.”
Cast: Paul Giamatti, George Clooney and Philip Seymour Hoffman
I would be much more interested in politics if George Clooney and Ryan Gosling were actually running for office.
As the film opens Governor Mike Morris and Senator Ted Pullman, both who want to be President, are campaigning against each other to win the state of Ohio. Hoping to secure the Democratic nomination he needs for Presidential candidacy, a win in the state for Morris would see this materialise and become a reality. However a win for Pullman would see him take the lead over Morris by a majority.
While the film is all about this heated campaign between Morris and Pullman, the focus really remains upon the guys you don’t normally see. Stephen Meyers (Gosling) is Morris’ press secretary and a true advocate of Morris and his campaign, though he suddenly finds himself being caught up in a web of political scandal that could see Morris lose Ohio and ultimately the nomination he needs for President.
The Ides of March is George Clooney’s fourth time in the directors chair. Though he also stars in the film as democrat Mike Morris, his role is much more supportive to players like Ryan Gosling, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Giamatti. The choice to take more of a backseat in the film has really allowed for Clooney’s talent as a director to shine through though.
Gosling plays Stephen, a young advisor on Morris’ political campaign and an aide to Paul. With his young age Morris often looks to Steve for a truthful, raw perspective on his position as a politician. His positive outlook and truly supportive attitude toward Morris, who Steve really believes could change America for the better, works to Morris’ advantage as Steve’s efforts are completely genuine. Though his charm and charisma is soon lost to greed and desire after he becomes trapped in a few uncompromising situations thanks to Tom Duffy (Giamatti), the campaign manager for Morris’ opponent, and highly seductive intern Molly (Evan Rachel Wood).
Though Steve is the brains behind Morris’ campaign, Paul (Hoffman) is the campaign manager. Paul is a hotshot in the world of politics who has been behind many other successful campaigns. Though he also wants Morris to win, he often bends the truth to keep his boss happy and confident. After being in the business all his life though Paul is very aware of the levels of underhanded, dirty politics that corrupt the business and the way it can change people. For this reason he prides himself on loyalty, which he believes is the strongest component of a team and without, everything amounts to nothing.
While the phrase ‘The Ides of March’ is often related to Julius Ceasar being stabbed in the back by his own people, this film is much more than just double crossing your own team. It’s about morals, loyalty and quite simply, human nature. Whether if the opportunity presented itself, you’d do the right thing in a tough situation or turn a blind eye in order to personally gain from the situation. For this reason, the theme of the film could have been applied to any setting, not just a political one. But as you’ll see, it fits so well.
Though this political drama is captivating and tense, when the film finishes the plot is actually like most political campaigns, being that it’s rather simple and doesn’t amount to much. As with most films that are rife with political scandal, the storyline is fair and the twists are expected, so from that perspective it’s not too shocking or groundbreaking. Maybe this says more in the way of human nature and its sad predictability, than the lack of new and innovative turns in the genre.
However, with the stylistic direction and strong, compelling performances, The Ides of March really is a brilliant film that Clooney should be very proud of.
Star rating: 7.5/10
Directed by George Clooney.
Running time 98 minutes.