Wednesday, 2 November 2011

The Ides of March (2011)

Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling) is a crucial and very pro-active member of staff on the election campaign for democrat candidate Mike Morris (George Clooney) currently trying to win the Ohio Primary. Along with campaign manager Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman), Stephen is a direct confident of Mike and has a very idealistic view of politics. However, when Stephen is approached by the Republican campaign manager Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti), and at the same time starts a relationship with an intern in his own staff, his ideology is ultimately brought into question, and his career is drastically altered.

For a mainstream political intrigue, the film works well; a detailed knowledge of the United States political system is not required, and I don’t think that repeated viewings would explain anything I didn’t get in one viewing. This is a strength of the film, but perhaps also its weakness. I enjoyed the film, I thought that it was well paced, beautifully shot, had a great script and a fantastic cast. It’s just that it could have been a lot better, I felt that there was something missing that would have made it a great film. I’m not even sure what I think was missing, some of the skeletons that come out of the closet along the way are fairly shocking, I just felt a trick was being missed.

But anyway, The Ides of March is very enjoyable; Clooney demonstrates that as a director he is as smooth as he is an actor; he doesn’t spoon feed everything to us, yet we know exactly what's going on (I’m thinking of a scene where Philip Seymour Hoffman’s character receives devastating news in the back of a car. We don’t see it though: he gets in the back of the car and the camera just films outside the front of the car in an alleyway for 60 seconds before PSH gets out). There are also a couple of key scenes between two characters which are shot in such a way that half of their face is in darkness; is George trying to highlight the two-faced nature of politicians?

I’ve already mentioned it, but the cast is excellent. Clooney is as smooth as ever, but the film really belongs to Ryan Gosling and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Ryan is smooth (not as much as Clooney though), very sure of what he wants and how to go about getting it, but then is also very good when everything he stands for is called into question. PSH is completely excellent, always in charge of every scene he’s in, and Paul Giamatti is very good as the minor antagonist of the film. Jeffrey Wright is cool and calm in his minor role as Senator Thompson, though strangely reminded me of Lando Calrissian!

A very enjoyable political drama, well written, superbly acted, quite close to being a great film, just not quite for some reason I can’t put my finger on. I would still highly recommend it though.

       (not in the film, but I can't get the tune out of my head!)