The Ides of March (2011)

Directed by George Clooney
Written by George Clooney & Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon

The Ides of March is one of those films that has been on my radar far longer than most any other film coming soon, and the reason for that is location. For the past five years I was a student at the University of Cincinnati in Ohio, and just last year the news came down that area native George Clooney was coming to Cincinnati to shoot his new movie, which was set to star Ryan Gosling and a slew of other big names. When I heard the news I got very excited. Sadly, I was unable to catch up with the production team while they were in town, but the idea that the city I lived in (having never lived in Los Angeles, New York or Chicago) would be one of the stars was exciting news. Heck, I was curious to see it just to notice the places I would recognize.

The films’ title references the memorable date of Julius Caesar’s assassination, the ides of March, or March 15th technically, which is a fitting reference for this story. Stephen Myers (Ryan Gosling) is a bright, idealistic junior campaign manager for Governor Mike Morris (George Clooney), who is running for the Democratic nomination in the upcoming Presidential election. The battle ground is Ohio and Morris’ team, led by Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman), the senior campaign manager, is trying to tie up the nomination with a victory. But soon after striking up a relationship with one of the interns (Evan Rachel Wood), Stephen begins to realize that Morris may not be the great politician Stephen thought. And as a result, the ideals of Stephen are brought to the reality of the dog-eat-dog political world as he juggles the media (Marisa Tomei), the opposing candidates’ campaign manager (Paul Giamatti), the intern, and Morris himself.

George Clooney is an interesting figure in Hollywood, at least to me. Looking at his filmography, he was a fairly successful television star, including a short stint on E/R and then in the mid-90s he sort of exploded on the silver screen, with his biggest break probably starring as Bruce Wayne/Batman in Batman & Robin. Since then he has pretty much taken over Tinseltown and become the handsome Silver Fox men and women alike love. This is his fourth feature as a director and to this point he has proven solid behind the camera, and that reputation continues with this effort, though there were a few instances when a decision with the camera pulled me out of the film, but he handles his ensemble cast beautifully, and they certainly aid Clooney in what he is trying to do here with the film.

Ryan Gosling is a heck of a movie star and this seems to be his breakout year between this film and Drive, which I feel is one of the best films released this year to this point. While his performance there is perhaps better than it is here, I am in no way knocking his accomplishment here. But Gosling is also flanked with a cabinet full of Academy Awards in the trailers next to him on set. Hoffman and Giamatti are awesome as the campaign managers, and Tomei is much more solid than her stereotypical costume design as the New York Times reporter covering the campaign. But I also want to mention Evan Rachel Wood, who is the best I have seen her in her career here. It is a really solid performance which, while not measuring up to the awesome work of the rest of cast, is still on par to be included in this ensemble performance.

And finally to the movie itself, which was a nice political thriller from start to finish. The screenplay is a really taut piece which focuses on taking the idealist, yet somehow experienced, young campaign leader and taking the veil which has shielded the reality of the political world out from in front of his eyes. When taken from afar the plot is fairly typical of a political thriller type film, but it is so well done that the screenplay can be forgiven the somewhat predictable twists, mostly because it sets the characters up well enough, and at the right times, to allow for tension to rise throughout the film, even while the film also manages to proceed at a fairly deliberate clip. I would say that most everyone involved in this film has been involved in much better projects, but The Ides of March will mark another entry into each of their scrapbooks as an example of their outstanding careers.

 

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