‘The Ides of March’ Review: An Interesting Political Thriller That Just Misses the Mark For Greatness
After Good Night and Good Luck, George Clooney’s role in Hollywood as a director became one of the most talked about aspects of his career. The Ides of March is an interesting move for Clooney. Political thrillers are always tricky to pull off. If they fail they are incredibly boring and can be tougher to sit through than the Transformers sequels. Luckily, this film pulls it off pretty well. While it isn’t close to the best movie of the year, it has benefits from a fantastic script and a great cast.
The plot revolves around Ryan Gosling’s character, Stephen, who is working on the campaign for Clooney’s Mike Morris as they head towards the Ohio primary. Slowly, a number of scandals come out that could ruin Morris’ campaign, and Stephen is left to deal with most of them. The plot moves quickly and the pacing is very good. The movie never feels too long or boring, and as the stakes raise you will find yourself on the edge of your seat.
I will say, however, that this is not a movie for people who have a true understanding of the political process. Gosling’s character knows about as much as the average person, not a campaign manager. Everyone that understands anything about a primary will account for the other party to vote for the candidate that the think they could beat. So why does this have to be explained to one of the best up and coming people in the industry?
Anyway, the cast is mostly good. Gosling has had better roles this year in Crazy, Stupid, Love and Drive, but here he comes off as, well, tired. Yes, that is a part of his character for some of the movie, but overall Gosling just doesn’t seem to have his heart in this project. As for Clooney, he is getting very close to the caliber of Morgan Freeman or Michael Caine where he pretty much does the same thing in every movie but he has such a strong screen presence that it doesn’t matter. Philip Seymour Hoffman does a good job as Gosling’s boss and Clooney’s campaign manager. He is a good man at heart, but his job comes first. Tomei and Giamatti have very limited screen time but do what they can with it. Among all these superstars, the best performance of the movie goes to Evan Rachel Wood, playing an intern for Morris’ campaign. Her role is expertly written and even at this young age, Wood shows all the versatility of a veteran actress. It is a standout performance in a cast of Oscar winners, a tough job to pull off.
The Ides of March isn’t the best movie of the year, but if you enjoy the drama of politics you shouldn’t miss it. Some of the politics early on seem arbitrary and Gosling’s performance seems a bit phoned-in but the brilliant writing and Evan Rachel Wood’s tender performance more than make up for the film’s shortcomings. Keep ’em coming Clooney. (*** out of 4)