Based on the play Farragut North by Beau Willimon, The Ides of March is about a junior campaign manager working for a presidential candidate on the campaign trail. When approached by a rival campaign manager, the young manager beings to ponder about the world of politics. Directed and starring George Clooney with a script written by Clooney, Willimon, and Grant Heslov, the film is political drama that uncovers the dirty world of politics and how one man‘s belief is shattered by that world. Starring Ryan Gosling, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Evan Rachel Wood, Jeffrey Wright, and Marisa Tomei. The Ides of March is an intriguing yet chilling film from George Clooney on the world of politics.
Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling) is a junior campaign manager working for the president campaign for Pennsylvania governor Mike Morris (George Clooney). Under the supervision of senior campaign manager Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman), Meyers’ job is to make sure things are going well as they compete against Arkansas Senator Ted Pullman (Mike Mitchell) in the upcoming Ohio primary. While Morris is seemingly on his way to win, Pullman’s campaign manager Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti) approaches Meyers about a job while claiming that Morris won’t win. Meyers doesn’t take Duffy’s offer while deciding not to tell Zara thinking that Zara will get Senator Thompson (Jeffrey Wright) to endorse Morris.
Meyers befriends a young intern named Molly (Evan Rachel Wood) as they start to have a liaison while Meyers later reveals to Zara about Duffy’s offer after Zara revealed that he couldn’t get Thompson on board. With Morris’ campaign in trouble without Thompson’s endorsement, Meyers learns a horrifying secret during a night with Molly. Meanwhile, journalist Ida Horowicz (Marisa Tomei) reveals to Meyers that she knows the meeting he had with Duffy causing more problems. With Meyers suddenly in trouble, Zara makes a big decision that would put another campaign associate in Ben Harpen (Max Minghella) to take over for Meyers. Realizing the consequences of what he knows and what is really going on, he decides to confront the man whom he had hope to put all of his ideals into the world of politics.
The world of politics is one where the objective is to get yourself into the White House by any means. It’s a world where it’s very dirty and any ideas for good that anyone hopes for the world of politics doesn’t exist. It’s a film about a young man whose belief in good is shattered by the world of dirty plays and corruption in order to go after the presidency. During this journey, he’s offered something that would ascend him into power while he also uncovers a secret that wouldn’t just ruin everything he believes in the man that is supposed to be about those things.
The screenplay is a compelling study about the world of politics where it is all about what it takes to make it in that world. Particularly in the characters that Stephen Meyers interact with as they all would provide some idea of what he’s facing. There’s Mike Morris, the man he’s campaigning for who is trying to find a way to advance in the political game without getting his hands dirty. There’s the two differing campaign managers that are pulling Meyers about the game as well as a journalist that is looking for a story. Finally, there’s an intern who shares his idealism but finds herself in a situation that would threaten everything. It’s all about setting a man’s descent into idealism and how he is forced to realize that what it takes to survive in the world of politics where that person has to get his hands dirty.
George Clooney’s direction is quite straightforward for the way he presents the film as it’s mostly intimate for the conversations that take place throughout the film. There are a lot of great shots in the way Clooney present the scenes such as the lone conversation between Morris, Meyers, and Zara in a room while there’s more raucous moments in the campaign office for the way things operate. Yet, Clooney’s direction is quite potent for the way he creates an element of suspense where it all comes to the climatic third act where Meyers finally faces all of the things he believes in. While there’s some parts of it that doesn’t entirely work, it does lead to a fitting end about what happens as Clooney does create a solid and engaging film.
Cinematographer Phedon Papamichael does an excellent job with cinematography where a lot of the daytime exterior settings are straightforward while presenting some amazing shading for some of the interiors including some gorgeous nighttime exterior shots for some of the locations in the film. Editor Stephen Mirrone does a nice job with the editing as it’s presented in a straightforward manner while playing with the film’s pace to build up some of the suspenseful elements for the film.
Production designer Sharon Seymour, along with set decorator Maggie Martin and art director Chris Cornwell, does a very good job with the look for the hotel rooms, campaign offices, and public speaking forums to emphasize the broad world of political primaries.. Costume designer Louise Frogley also does a good job with the costume design from the suits the men wear to the more casual yet conservative clothing the women wear in their jobs. Sound editor Elmo Webster does an amazing job with the sound to convey the atmosphere that goes on during the speeches to the way conversations are presented to maintain the intimacy of the film. The film’s score by Alexandre Desplat is wonderful for its more somber yet soaring score that features some playful cadence drum fills in a few parts while delving into heavier themes for some of intense moments of the film.
The casting by Ellen Chenoweth is superb as there’s a wonderful ensemble created as it features small appearances from Gregory Itzin as Democratic National Party leader and Michael Mantell as Morris’ opponent though Jennifer Ehle in a small role as Morris’ wife is practically wasted as she only gets one scene of dialogue in the film. Other notable small performances include Max Minghella as Meyers’ associate Ben Harpen and Jeffrey Wright as the ambitious Senator Thompson. Marisa Tomei is very good as Ida Horowicz, a journalist trying to get a story while playing dirty in order to get Meyers to reveal things that she feels the country needs to know. Paul Giamatti is great as Tom Duffy, the rival campaign manager who makes an offer to Meyers while giving him insight about the dangerous world of politics. Philip Seymour Hoffman is excellent as Paul Zara, Meyers’ superior who shows him the ropes while revealing that loyalty is the key to making it in politics.
Evan Rachel Wood is wonderful as Molly, a young intern who shares the same ideals as Meyers only to find herself in a troubling situation which could threaten everything as Wood gives a very chilling performance. George Clooney is superb as Mike Morris, the man that Meyers is campaigning for as he tries to figure out what to do while being very complex about the ways he wants to win. Finally, there’s Ryan Gosling in an amazing performance as Stephen Meyers. While it’s a more showy performance than the one he previously did in Drive, Gosling does bring some charm and wit into a guy that does everything that is needed to be done while his world is shaken by the true ideology of politics as it’s a remarkable performance from the actor.
The Ides of March is an intelligent yet fascinating political drama from George Clooney that features a mesmerizing lead performance from Ryan Gosling. While it may not have the more entrancing and enthralling feel of Good Night, and Good Luck, it is still a strong film that does dwell into the dangerous world of politics. Particularly as it gives a point of view that idealism isn’t enough to win people over as Clooney creates something that seems very relevant with today’s current state of American politics. In the end, The Ides of March is a stellar film from George Clooney.
George Clooney Films: Confessions of a Dangerous Mind - (Good Night, and Good Luck) - (Leatherheads) - The Monuments Men
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