A case of the sum is lesser than its parts, this ensemble political drama is more intriguing than engaging.
Cast: Ryan Gosling, George Clooney, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Evan Rachel Wood, Marisa Tomei
Plot: An idealistic staffer for a newbie presidential candidate gets a crash course on dirty politics during his stint on the campaign trail.
Awards: Won Brian Award and Nom. for Golden Lion (Venice). Nom. for Best Adapted Screenplay (Oscars)
Subject Matter: Moderate – Dirty Politics
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream
Viewed: In Theatres
First Published: 27 Oct 2011
Since 2002, actor George Clooney has directed four films, with a consistent three-year gap between the release of each film. While not the best of Hollywood filmmakers, Clooney’s films are at the very least smart and savvy.
His latest, The Ides of March, based on the play “Farragut North” by Beau Willimon, is just that. Willimon adapts his own play and co-writes together with Clooney and Grant Heslov (Good Night, and Good Luck, 2005) in this political drama that is more intriguing than it is engaging.
Nominated for the Golden Lion, The Ides of March stars Clooney, Ryan Gosling, Paul Giamatti, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Evan Rachel Wood, and Marisa Tomei in what has to be one of the most exceptional ensemble casts of the year.
Gosling plays the lead role Stephen Meyers, an idealistic member of Governor Morris’ (Clooney) campaign team who becomes embroiled in dirty politics as he struggles to stay sane in light of accusations, scandals, and tragedy.
The rest of the cast provide excellent supporting turns with a couple of outstanding monologues from Hoffman and Giamatti. Intense performances drive this film, without which it would probably fail because this is a dialogue-centric film that requires actors to exercise strong verbal acumen.
Clooney uses a lot of close-ups as facial expressions become paramount to conveying emotions as compared to the general body language.
This is evident in the film’s lengthy final shot of Stephen’s face as he gets ready for an interview, and in another scene where Governor Morris is puzzled and apprehensive as a call by a recently deceased reaches his phone.
“You can lie, you can cheat, you can start a war, you can bankrupt the country, but you can’t f**k the interns. They get you for that.”
Much of the drama in The Ides of March comes from the political tension that arises as a result of the mind games that each side play to gain an upper hand. Is this what we have come to know about politics?
Morris’ determination to get a foothold in Ohio so that he could stand a chance at a nomination is juxtaposed with Stephen’s mounting personal problems, some of which are intertwined with his job.
Clooney makes the effort to turn up the dial for intrigue as complications rise with each political and personal decision by the characters, rash or otherwise.
Unfortunately, the film is less than the sum of its parts. It is engaging to a certain extent with the strong performances providing some needed bite.
But the intrigue that is so well developed in the first two acts slowly fizzles out of gas by the time the film reaches its climax. The cinematic experience becomes slightly diluted when the film could have left audiences with a punch to the gut.
Politics is indeed a dirty game, and Clooney’s film clearly shows this with some intricacy. However, it is not potent enough a bullet to strike anger in audiences to demand immediate political accountability.