Release date: October 7th, 2011
Running time: 101 minutes
Written by: George Clooney, Grant Heslov, and Beau Willimon
Based on: The play Farragut North by Beau Willimon
Directed by: George Clooney
Starring: Ryan Gosling, George Clooney, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Marisa Tomei, and Evan Rachel Wood
The Ides of March is a political thriller revolving around Stephen Myers (Ryan Gosling), a young campaign manager for Mike Morris (George Clooney) a democrat who is running for president. Stephen is assisted by senior campaign manager Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman), and opposed by Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti) who is running the campaign for the opposition. Duffy approaches Stephen and asks of he’ll work for him instead of Paul. This, on top of being involved with a young intern named Molly (Evan Rachel Wood), pull Stephen into a world of secrets and lies.
I should say right now that politics don’t interest me in the slightest. Perhaps it’s because of my age, but I can’t of too many things that bore me more than politics. Yet in spite of that, I still really enjoyed The Ides of March. While the story is very political, it’s written in a way that makes it accessible to any audience. You don’t have to know the inner workings of politics to understand the drama of the film. This is because of a great script with great dialogue that gets better as the film progresses. The film starts out good, but starts to really excel as the film hits its second act. From there, the film just continues to improve scene after scene until it eventually reaches its great ending.
What really shines through in this film is the acting. I’ve been a fan of Ryan Gosling for a long time. Half Nelson, Lars and the Real Girl, Blue Valentine, Drive, and now The Ides of March. I wouldn’t say his performance in this is his best role, but it ranks among his best. Stephen is a character who is a good guy and genuinely believes in what Mike Morris stands for. He’s smart and efficient, and Gosling brings a lot of charisma to the role. Stephen also goes through a very interesting arc through the film. He starts out as an innocent man who genuinely believes that he’s doing the right thing. But the deeper he goes into this world the more he begins to question his morals. The arc is very reminiscent of Michael Corleone’s in the first two Godfather films. Even the final shot of The Ides of March is evocative of The Godfather Part Two.
The film also has one of the strongest supporting cast I’ve seen all year. George Clooney isn’t exactly doing any acting stretches, but he is perfectly cast as presidential candidate Mike Morris. Philip Seymour Hoffman is also quite good as the senior campaign manager Paul. Hoffman is very commanding in the role and there are times where you can’t take your eyes off him. He brings in a lot of intensity when necessary, but he also gives the character a lot of credibility and makes Paul feel very wise. But for me, the best supporting performance came from Paul Giamatti. Tom Duffy isn’t a flat-out villain, but Giamatti gives the character such a threatening presence that he dominates any scene he’s in. One of the best scenes in the film is a confrontation near the end between Duffy and Stephen. Giamatti doesn’t have a lot of screen time, but he does a lot with what he’s given and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get an Oscar nomination. The film also sees strong performances from Jeffrey Wright, Evan Rachel Wood, and Marisa Tomei.
If the film has one weakness, it’s that the revelation that politicians play dirty is not a very surprising revelation. After decades of films, books, and music about how corrupt politicians are, it isn’t a very big reveal. We also live in a world where information is leaked immediately. Politics don’t have the same dark and mysterious feel they use to. This isn’t a big problem mind you, and the film is more than smart enough to make up for this.
If I had to compare The Ides of March to one other film, it would be last year’s The Ghost Writer. Like that film, The Ides of March is a thriller that doesn’t rely on shoot outs and explosions to thrill the audience. It doesn’t bother with pointless action scenes that don’t mean anything. Instead, The Ides of March is film that stands on it’s excellent drama brought to life by some terrific performances. I highly recommend The Ides of March, easily one of the best film’s of the year.