The Ides of March, directed by George Clooney, is a meaty, fast-moving political thriller about betrayal and disillusionment. And although it makes no new revelations about politics or politicians, it keeps you glued to your seat thanks to some terrific performances from its delicious cast.
Clooney himself takes the role of charismatic Pennsylvania Governor Mike Morris, who’s in the throes of a crucial campaign for a shot at the Democratic nomination for the White House. On his team are his trusted campaign manager Paul (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and his idealistic but ambitious press secretary Stephen (Ryan Gosling). Just when it seems like Morris is on the verge of clinching the presidential nomination, his campaign threatens to get derailed because Stephen makes the mistake of meeting the rival camp’s campaign manager (Paul Gimatti) and starting an affair with a teenage intern (Evan Rachel Wood).
Expectedly, the film flirts with such themes as the compromises of modern politics, the price that must be paid for integrity, and the loss of innocence. Alas, these revelations aren’t of an earth-shattering magnitude, and the film feels naïve for presenting them as such. But despite its shortcomings, The Ides of March works as a tight thriller that sustains dramatic tension throughout.
The cast is first-rate and delivers credible performances across the board, but the film belongs to Ryan Gosling. As the rare honest man in a dishonest business, he plays the part with a shrewd balance of cockiness and naivete. And as the film progresses, Gosling tracks the character’s transformation perfectly.
I’m going with three-and-a-half out of five for The Ides of March. It’s an intelligent, if somewhat simplistic thriller. Watch it for the solid acting that’s on display.