The Ides of March, directed by George Clooney, is an extremely smooth and polished political drama, which gives a bleak look into the dirty world of politics. Ryan Gosling stars as the film’s protagonist, Stephen Meyers, a young and brilliant Junior Campaign Manager to Governor Mike Morris, a semi-cameo by George Clooney, and follows the events of a Democratic primary campaign.
Stephen Meyers begins as a bright and self-assured man, dubbed as having the ‘best media mind in the country’, and on the road to success with what looks like a sure-fire win for his candidate, Morris, in whom he utterly believes. However, it is his naïve idealism that proves to be his fatal flaw. After receiving a call from his rival Campaign Manager, Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti), who tries to lure him to the other side, events slowly begin to unravel as their sure-fire win doesn’t seem so sure. And eventually, Stephen’s idealist values come crashing down.
Clooney proves himself as an excellent director, creating a stark and cold picture of the game of politics. Use of lighting is distinctive in painting the shadowy side of politics. A particularly striking scene is when Stephen admits meeting with Tom Duffy to his Senior Campaign Manager, Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman), in which light shines from behind them so that they are only black silhouettes against the backdrop of the USA flag. Music is another key feature that is used effectively to create the uncomfortably tense atmosphere of the film; one expected blood to be shed. One criticism is that as an adaption of the play, Farragut North, by Beau Willimon who co-wrote the screenplay with Clooney and Grant Heslov, the film sometimes came across as stagey.
Nevertheless, the strongest feature of the film is the showcase of fine acting. Ryan Gosling gives a superb and effortless depiction of the charming yet deluded protagonist, whilst Clooney gives a smooth performance as the Governor. The two jaded and cynical Senior Campaign Managers are played frankly by Philip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Giamatti, who give out most of the screenplay’s banter. A character that shines out is the intern with whom Stephen has an affair, played by Evan Rachel Wood, who gives a truly humane and sensitive performance as a young woman whose life is dictated by a group of big bad men.
The Ides of March gives a brutally honest and grim outlook on the World; it almost felt as though I were watching a Shakespearean tragedy. The wheel of fortune is spun, chaos ensues, and as the hero quickly learns one must shake off their romantic values and get their hands dirty to stay on top. This is no film for romantic Idealists!