George Clooney’s intense political drama explores the sinister underbelly of a campaign between two presidential candidates. The Ides of March takes place in Ohio, a crucial destination to the campaign that could determine which side takes the lead and ultimately wins. With this knowledge in the minds of all those involved in the battle, tensions couldn’t be higher and the tactics couldn’t be dirtier. Clooney opens his film with Stephen Meyers taking to a stage, rehearsing a powerful speech about why people should vote for him. We learn quickly that Meyers is not a candidate but is in fact working for democratic contender Governor Mike Morris. Meyers is young. He is experienced in campaign work but his idealistic approach to the cause, and his deep admiration for Morris, makes him vulnerable. The film’s title refers to the date of Julius Caesar’s murder. It is an apt title when we consider the numerous betrayals Meyers, and those closest to him, experience throughout Clooney’s slick insight into the vicious nature of contemporary politics. The Ides of March, with its triumphant cast and expert handling by Clooney, is a delicious mix of deceit, dedication and damnation. Here, the bad guys were once good guys and the good guys have to learn to become bad guys in order to survive. The Ides of March revolves around Meyers and his transformation from innocent visionary to cynical professional. Here, being good at your jobs involves being true to nobody – including one’s self.
Ryan Gosling presents Meyers as a man consumed by his passion for politics – devoted to his governor. When devotion turns out to be disillusion, Gosling knows just how Meyers should mutate. Gosling has a similar class and conviction to Clooney and when both share the screen fireworks go off. The chemistry is there between two actors with similar vision and understanding of the film’s intention. Clooney directs himself in the role of Morris, a dream candidate that seems too good to be true. We don’t blame Meyers for believing in him; on the surface, Morris is fighting the good fight. Both Gosling’s and Clooney’s performances expand in depth as the cracks start to show in the campaign and the masks start to slip. Whilst simultaneously dealing with sabotage from the opposition and the interference of journalists and greedy senators, Meyers also finds a romantic interest in one of the campaign’s interns. Gosling brilliantly portrays a man drowning in betrayal, deception and secrets. Philip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Giamatti do what they do best in The Ides of March. Their characters have the same job on opposing sides and both actors powerfully portray their similarities. We witness their control over others but also feel the weight of their careers on their shoulders; a great strain on both men. Their experience in the cruel and poisonous world of politics and their awareness of the bleak truth about how to win a campaign make them very different men to Meyers, who still has much to learn. Evan Rachel Wood and Jeffrey Wright also contribute to the film’s exceptional cast. The Ides of March isn’t about a political campaign, it’s about the men and women that make it happen. It’s a stylish and suspenseful drama that points a big fat finger at the man behind the curtain.
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