The Ides of March

The Ides of March ★★★★

"There's only one thing I value in this world, and that's loyalty. Without it, you are nothing."

The more I've thought about George Clooney's slightly overlooked political thriller The Ides of March, the more impressed I am by it. Based on a play by Beau Willimon, it tells the story of the run-up to a fictional election, popular junior campaign manager Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling) is thrown off the campaign after a secret meeting with a campaigner for the opposition is leaked to the press and plans to take revenge by revealing a piece of information that would ruin presidential candidate Mike Morris (George Clooney).

It helps to know as little as possible about the film when you watch it. I knew next to nothing about the events that would unfold, and was reminded how much fun you can have with a film when you don't already know the major plot points. Much of the first half is just scene-setting, but when the first twist sneaks in unexpectedly, the tension ramps up and it becomes a subtly gripping drama. The dialogue and characters look like they could have come from a David Mamet play, and the performances from the all-star cast are wonderful. Gosling perhaps slightly overplays Meyers' vengeful streak, either that or it's an unconvincing writing fault, but otherwise he delivers a solid performance in the lead. Clooney is well-cast and believable as a presidential candidate; he channels the Clooney Charm into something quite different and very effective. We also have great work from Evan Rachel Wood, Max Minghella (of The Social Network), Marisa Tomei and Paul Giamatti, who threatens to the steal the show from Philip Seymour Hoffman, who, ultimately, steals the show. He is wonderfully suited to the slightly downbeat character he plays, again showcasing his awesome versatility, and delivers all of his lines perfectly.

It's a very bleak film, and an in-depth understanding and knowledge of American politics isn't necessary to follow or enjoy it. Despite its flaws (it also occasionally wanders into glossy Hollywood thriller cliché territory), it's an interesting and engaging drama, elevated mainly by its very strong performances.

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