The Ides of March

“He’s the only one that’s actually going to make a difference in people’s lives”, Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling) says of Governor Mike Morris (George Clooney). As one of Morris’s campaign managers, he truly believes what he says; as an idealist, Meyers believes that Governor Morris is truly capable of changing the scope of the political world. Morris’s campaign has been of great success, and the final roadblock to the Democratic presidential nomination seems to lie within winning the Ohio primary. However, Ohio represents quite a significant challenge, and the campaign manager for the opposition, Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti) makes this clear. Duffy will do whatever it takes to win, including trying to sway Meyers to his side. When an offer to meet with Duffy transpires, Meyers will discover that the world of politics is cut-throat, ugly, and filled with corruption.
The films greatest strength is its performances. At its core, Ryan Gosling is phenomenal, and watching his ideals crumble around him is devastating. Here is a man so convinced in good, that when evil intrudes he slowly starts to break, and Gosling performs this to perfection. Gosling has proved throughout his career that he is one of the finest working actors, which has only been exemplified through the excellent year he’s had, starring it hits such as Drive and Crazy, Stupid, Love. The cast has no weak spots, including terrific work from Phillip Seymour Hoffman as Meyer’s mentor, Marisa Tomei as a reporter for the Times, and the scene-stealing Evan Rachel Wood as one of Morris’s political interns.
The Ides of March also stands out from a technical standpoint. Alexandre Desplat has crafted one of the year’s finest scores, efficiently and effectively enhancing the senses of looming troubles and deep corruption. The films sound design is impressive as well, focusing on unique sound choices, outlined by a key scene towards the end of the film, in which the sound of a phones vibration is emphasised to a remarkably intense effect.
What is fascinating about The Ides of March is that director, actor and co-writer George Clooney is an avid Democrat, yet the film does not target, or even really acknowledge Republican Party. This is because it is not a film about parties, but instead a film about the universality of government corruption and how we live in a world where ugly secrets are kept behind closed doors.
This idea is nothing new, and that is the films greatest fault. It gives us nothing new, and while what is on show is entertaining, it gives us nothing we were not already aware of to think about. The film works on a surprisingly small scale, and lacks a big issue that great political films can focus on. After leaving the cinema, The Ides of March feels awfully inconsequential – it is excellently constructed and flawlessly performed, but by telling us what we already know or presume, it fails to be truly compelling.
However, the film’s final shot – a slow, steady zoom on Gosling’s tormented face – an expression displaying his hopelessness at the knowledge of the corrupt world he has become a part of – is haunting, even if its old news.


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