Had this one on my to review list for a little while. Well, a month. This week’s gonna have a few reviews coming your way to make up for how slack I’ve been the last few weeks. Starting with The Ides Of March I intend to have 4 reviews posted this week with one of my most anticipated releases of the year, that being Dredd 3D, to be posted last. So, on with the review for The Ides Of March. Click the link!!!
The Ides Of March follows a crucial stage in the campaign for fiction Governor of Pennsylvania and potential Presidential candidate Mike Morris (George Clooney who also produced and directed this film). The story focuses on his young deputy campaign manager Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling) who finds his loyalties and his belief in his campaign shaken by the various people around him as the Presidential race heats up.
Thankfully for a political thriller of this kind The Ides Of March doesn’t go straight for sensationalism or to outright parallel the events it portrays with a single real life politician. Instead it takes various characteristics and real life scandals and keeps them grounded enough so you know the stakes are high without ever letting the film’s feet come off the ground. It’s quite a balancing act that director Clooney manages to pull off between naturalistic drama and the sorts of melodrama that a lot of these films like to resort to.
The films strength though comes mostly from what has to be one of the best complete casts brought together in recent years. Everyone knows Ryan Gosling has been doing a fine job of proving himself to be more than Young Hercules… You should look that up by the way. Clooney is playing the version of himself that’s a determined yet mature charmer as opposed to the determined man-child charmer. We know what Clooney can do and he does his dramatic thing here in a role that doesn’t feel as though it’s been puffed up to give him more screentime. He’s actually used quite sparingly all things considered. Adding to them is the double whammy of literal heavyweights Paul Giamatti and Philip Seymour Hoffmann as rival campaign leaders Tom Duffy and Paul Zara respectively. To add to that cast we have Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood and Jennifer Ehle. Evan Rachel Wood gets the most to do as campaign intern Molly who’s at the centre of a large amount of potential trouble involving Governor Clooney. Unfortunately Jennifer Ehle gets next to nothing to do over the course of the film despite being a potentially central character as Morris’ wife.
That last issue may really be the films main problem. The 100 minute runtime really isn’t enough to fully explore the amount of conflict, both central and potential, as it could have. For example, Morris committed an act of infidelity on his wife Cindy, it has resulted in an unwanted pregnancy. He’s pro-choice and she wants an abortion. There’s so much potential conflict between Morris, Molly (the girl in question, I give up trying to avoid a spoiler) and his wife Cindy here but it’s only explored between Stephen and Morris towards the films conclusion. To add to that both Hoffman and Giamatti don’t get nearly enough screentime. That’s a pairing that would have created fireworks on screen but they’re kept apart for the whole film.
It seems Clooney is fast becoming a real heavyweight director in Hollywood. He takes on subjects and stories he clearly feels are important and uses his name value to get these films made. The ides Of March is based on a Beau Willimon play called Farragut North. I’m not sure how similar the film has come out but I assume some large amount of adaptation was done. The title itself was changed to reference the day on which Julius Ceaser was assassinated by his trusted friend Brutus. A clever choice of title for a film which has a certain amount of parallels with that event. Clooney has a good eye for a shot and knows how to layer conflict well which is better than a lot of directors out there. He could well end up being this generation’s Clint Eastwood if he continues to show such a deft skill as a director and an actor over the coming years.
The Ides Of March is a very solid political thriller but it fails to deliver on all it’s potential. It’s not enough to make it anywhere near a poor film though. The performances, direction, script and score are all excellent. It just leaves you feeling like all avenues were not fully explored and as such feels a little too light. It’s a large step above the norm then, but falls a little short of greatness.