The Ides of March Review
The Ides of March may have a ridiculous and cheesy title, but luckily the film itself is a cinematic achievement and may be the defining cinematic example of the dark side of politics. George Clooney and company create a captivating look at one man's fall from grace through the story of a Democratic primary for the US presidency in Ohio. While it may not provide any new insight or deeper meaning on American politics, it isn't seeking to do so. It just revels in the corruption of politics and the film is all the better for it.
George Clooney is appearing too be a far better director than he has an actor. While his acting seems to be a bit generic with some good old Hollywood charm added in, his directing style is anything but. This isn't to say he is bad in this film as a presidential candidate. He (as an actor) actually completely makes you believe that his character is the next "candidate Obama" (the Obama that many in America thought would provide real change to the corrupt political system we know today), and you can't do that with just good writing. However, as a director, Clooney provides a bunch of homages to other political films while simultaneously finding a dark but original atmosphere for the film.
Clooney actually does triple duty on this film as he co-wrote the screenplay, and to be honest, his screenwriting ability may be the best of the three. Along with Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon, Clooney creates a script where every character is complex and realistic. Just look at the main character of Stephen (portrayed by Ryan Gosling). The script takes him through a very believable fall from grace. Yet there were always subtle signs that this fall was inevitable. At the beginning of the film, Stephen is no saint. He is clearly a flawed individual, and this is where a lesser film would have fallen. It would have never used as flawed of a character as Stephen as the main viewpoint into the world of the film.
Speaking of Stephen, a lot of credit also has to be given to Ryan Gosling for creating such a complex character. Gosling immediately makes you root for this guy despite obvious warning signals in his character from the beginning. The transition of Stephen from your average human to monster is completely seamless in large part to this guy. In addition to Gosling, George Clooney was fortunately able to get an amazing cast to back him up. Paul Giamatti and Philip Seymour Hoffman are two actors that make acting look so easy that you forget that they are acting most of the time. Giamatti is especially great in this film with one fiery confrontation between his character and Gosling's. Evan Rachel Wood is powerful as the victim. She makes everything that happens to her character leave a mark on the audience. Gregory Itzin, Marisa Tomei and Jeffrey Wright are also good in small parts (especially Itzin who plays against type as a grieving father).
The one big problem with this film is that it carries on far too long. This is a film that should have been 90 minutes long. The film being 100 minutes doesn't seem like too much of a stretch, but you definitely feel those extra 10 minutes. The third act suffers the most from this extra time as it tries to smack you in the face with all of its political treachery. With the exception of one well executed showdown between Gosling's character and Clooney's, the majority of the third act could have been (and should have been) cut.
The Ides of March is masterfully directed, well-written and has a dream team of actors to perform it all. It should not be missed.
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