The Ides of March

Directed By: George Clooney

Starring: Ryan Gosling, George Clooney, Paul Giamatti, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood, and Philip Seymour Hoffman

The Ides of March may have some really bad timing for its release.  At a time when citizens are fed up with every aspect of the political system in America, the last thing we probably want to see is another thriller about political corruption.  At the same time, one could argue that George Clooney's The Ides of March has some great timing given that 2012 is an election year.  Regardless, The Ides of March is undoubtedly a film worth your time (and maybe a drink or two).

Stephen Myers (Ryan Gosling), the junior campaign manager for presidential hopeful Mike Morris (Clooney), has everything going for him.  His career is blossoming; the media loves him, and he may be going to the White House for the next four to eight years alongside Governor Morris.  He currently works alongside senior campaign manager Paul Zara (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), and they have a great working relationship.  When Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti), the campaign manager for presidential rival Ted Pullman (Michael Mantell) makes Myers an offer to join him, it turns out to be an offer he can't refuse.  When Myers does so, all hell breaks loose, and his career implodes.  Duffy sets him up to get fired by Zara, a man who clearly values loyalty more than any other attribute. 

While still on the Morris campaign, Myers gets involved with intern Molly Stearns (Evan Rachel Wood) and learns some things about Molly and Morris that could derail the governor's presidential campaign.  He initially helps to cover this secret up.  Given the fact that he's been fired though, Myers can leverage this information to save his own ass or take the Morris campaign down with him.  Either way, someone is bound to get hurt because of an ever-growing web of corruption.

The most important aspect of the filmmaking in The Ides of March is character development.  Myers and Morris are both men who are grounded in their ethics.  They always want to do the right thing.  When they're up against a wall however, their ethics get thrown out the window, and we see what they're really willing to do to get what they want.  Myers and Morris both undergo some major personal transformations to get to the end of the film where they're both essentially soulless.  The never-ending cycle of corruption that rules politics in Washington kills souls (this is not a new revelation; just look at Congress today).  Gosling and Clooney bring these characters with ever-changing moral values to life in a grand and powerful way in this film.

Another major part of The Ides of March is the acting itself.  With these major character transformations, director George Clooney needs some powerhouse actors.  He finds exactly who he needs and assembles a stellar ensemble that basically consists of past, present, and future Oscar winners.  That being said, the performances by all actors involved are simply superb.  While Clooney and Hoffman are standouts in the film, Gosling continues his impressive string of performances this year.  Having portrayed a womanizing playboy in Crazy, Stupid, Love. and a silent, brutal killer (and kickass driver) in Drive, he simply adds one more notch to his resume by showcasing a good guy who happened to have the wrong job at the wrong time in The Ides of March.

My one criticism of Clooney's latest directorial effort is that it depends too much on the past.  Rooted in competition that resembles the 2008 presidential election, the film feels too much like an adaptation of the actual events of the Democratic Party's primaries except for the fact that the two contenders were a black man and a white woman in real life, which was historic by any measure.  I would prefer a film that's more forward-looking to the 2012 election given the fact that it's imminent.  Otherwise, this is a damn good film.

For its powerful acting, intelligent directing, and great filmmaking, Clooney's The Ides of March gets a 0.03% rating.  You may not need much liquor when you're watching the film, but you will definitely need something strong when you reflect on how accurate Clooney's depiction of the political world truly is.