'The Ides of March' (dir: George Clooney, 2011) Cert: 15
George Clooney is no stranger to the director's chair nor is directing himself unfamiliar territory, but his latest picture, the political thriller 'The Ides of March' is the star's first film with a present day setting. I attended a press conference for this movie where he joked about how much easier this project was but it is clear he has done some dramatic research. Clooney is also credited as co-writer and producer of this film so it is obviously a project very close to him and he has brought an incredible cast along with him for the ride.
Steven Meyers (Ryan Gosling) is a determined junior campaign manager for presidential candidate Mike Morris (George Clooney). Along with their senior manager Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman), the team are attempting to enlist the state of Ohio and rapidly gain more supporters. However, Morris' rival camp headed by Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti) is closing in on a deal of a lifetime which could damage Morris' campaign -
plus Duffy is desperate to get his hands on Steven too. With New York Times reporter Ida (Marisa Tomei) constantly keeping a close eye on the campaign's drama, the group cannot afford a set-back but this being the world of politics, nothing is ever truly safe or secure.
Political thrillers often get a bad reputation rather unnecessarily and that is usually because the screenplay is weighed down by jargon which many have trouble understanding or keeping up with. Thankfully 'The Ides of March' breaks this sour tradition and presents viewers with an easily understood but incredibly punchy and performed script. The dialogue exchanges are magnetic - every line feels polished and sculpted; if a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination isn't around the corner then one would be deeply shocked.
The film is also beautifully captured - Clooney's knowledge of filmic space and mise-en-scene is undeniable and his flair with the camera enables him to craft some dizzyingly good angles and effects. This is his project, his work and he has certainly made the most of it. At times the film has the feel of a Noir - smoky, dim lit bars and ambient offices and at other times it thrives in it's extravagance - the campaign scenes are certainly mirrored from the Obama campaigns; even the posters and flyers are similar. Because of the film's unsettled scene structure, it makes everything projected on-screen supremely interesting and elegantly formed.
|Still from 'The Ides of March' (dir: George Clooney, 2011)|
It will not be long before people will call this 'Oscar Bait' and to an extent they will be right - this film has everything the Academy love so dearly; realism, performers, American values and ideals, but one believes labelling this picture is doing it a great disservice because Clooney's 'Ides' is a bitter yet sumptuous portion of cinema. Perhaps the most interesting thing about the movie is that it features no true protagonist or antagonist - everyone involved is a bad as each other, yet they believe in doing wrong, they are making a bigger, universal right. It's great to see ethics tampered with in this manner and the results are powerful and engaging.
'The Ides of March' is also the film that puts a certain global argument to rest - politics is dirty business. The movie shows how campaign staff and indeed candidates are happy to step on anybody's toes if it makes them just a little closer to succeeding. It has taken a long time for a picture to be this bold with it's content and it's wonderful to see it executed and performed with such skill and understanding.
Every performance is incredible, no matter how big or small - Gosling is the man of the year and he seems untouchable currently. Steven is a beautifully complex and greatly troubled young man carrying the credentials of someone twice his age. Gosling always seems so comfortable in whatever role he selects and that same acting ethos applies here. In fact, he is such a great actor, not at one point did I think about him stomping on someone's head like he did in 'Drive' which is one of the year's best entries and was released only a month ago here in the UK.
Clooney is also stunning in a surprising supporting role. Morris is a believable presidential candidate that is methodical, dimensional and damaged. George brings all his charm and personality to the role making Morris a dynamic force which is impossible to ignore. Seymour Hoffman and Giamatti are both sensational in their rival roles. The pair know the ropes like the backs of their hands and are able to manipulate and control those who still have integrity in this vicious game. Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood and Jeffrey Wright are also fantastic and make a great impact to the narrative progression and help shape fellow character developments.
'The Ides of March' is a gritty and unsettled thriller which bursts with visual flair, flowing dialogue and some of the year's strongest performances. This is a fast-paced white-knuckle ride to the White House which will excite, inform and play on your mind long after you leave the theatre.
Clooney's vision of politics is a cool and calculated and an informative and engaging affair that sits amongst the year's best offerings.
By Chris Haydon