George Clooney. An A list actor and now director who has charm and intelligence in abundance. Despite the Hollywood hysteria that he creates, he’s never been one to rest on his laurels especially after the Batman fiasco back in the 90′s. Seeking out challenging and thought provoking material has become his forte and with his latest project ‘The Ides of March’, he does the classic balancing act of acting in front and behind of the camera and lives up to his billing.
Originally adapted from a play released in 2008 called Faragut North written by Beau Willimon, Clooney takes a intriguing delve into the world of politics and those all important ‘running for’ campaigns.
Depicting the frenzied final stretch of a Presidential Primary run based in Ohio, Clooney plays seemingly squeaky clean and clean cut Governor Mike Morris. Alongside him on team Democrats are his main players including the optimistic up and comer Stephen Meyers played by Hollywood hot property Ryan Gosling and long term help/campaign manager Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman).
As you’d expect with any campaign, there is of course.. the competition that arrives in form of the tough talking Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti) and the man he hopes to lead to glory Senator Pullman (Michael Mantell). But we all know by now that in such a high profile profession, good morals and principles soon head out the window. The ‘spanners’ that are thrown into the works predominantly come courtesy of Duffy, trying to murk the waters by daring to strike a deal with Meyers.
Plus Meyer’s fondling with a young intern with a dark secret threatening to derail the entire Morris campaign (Evan Rachel Wood) is a disaster waiting to happen. Meyers obviously being too naive at this point, matters only escalate which are originally forewarned by a know it all reporter (Marisa Tomei) as he attempts to help Morris win no matter what the cost. Even.. if it costs him his own integrity and dignity.
Clooney has openly admitted that he originally tried to make the film whilst the historic event of Obama being elected as US president prompted his fanclub to be at large. But as with most reign’s, various respected countries’ optimism has dwindled significantly prompting him to pull the trigger now and with aplomb. Sure, the acts of backstabbing/betrayal that inevitably occur here are nothing out the ordinary in terms of the cinematic interpretations of politics we’ve seen before, but with a cast like this on board it is still thoroughly compelling.
Gosling tops off a remarkable year by holding his own against his Hollywood heavyweights giving another enthralling and ever present performance, with a face-off with Clooney in the latter stages being a real on screen firework display. Clooney for the majority of the running time hovers in the background while he is oblivious to the chaos that unravels around him, but is a reliable figure as you’d expect. The subtle sparring of Hoffman and Giamatti as opponents spouting sharp tongued truths add to the drama, but the real knockout is Evan Rachel Wood who arguably is the figure who well and truly ‘raises the stakes’.
Clooney’s direction is tight if a tad pedestrian at times but with a well crafted story complete with a bleak ending behind him, it results in ‘The Ides of March’ being anything but corrupt cinema. An engaging and thought provoking affair!