One of the highest compliments I can give Columbia Pictures’ The Ides of March is that it would work as a silent film. The intensity of the subject, actor portrayals and cinematography are all in sync, but this film uses silence as its most effective weapon. It’s all about what’s not being said that makes it so captivating.
The premise of The Ides of March revolves heavily around political positioning (within the same campaign), loyalty, betrayal, revenge and the exploration of how far an individual is willing to go to get what they want, what I would call extreme ambition. All these elements are set among the backdrop of a hotly contested Democratic primary in Ohio (everyone’s second favorite swing state). Hollywood it-boy Ryan Gosling plays press secretary to George Clooney’s Governor Morris. What starts out as a firm loyalty quickly dissolves once Gosling’s character learns a disturbing secret about Gov. Morris.
The Ides of March is packed with great actors including Gosling, Clooney (who also directed the film), Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Marisa Tomei and Evan Rachel Wood.
The film drags a bit in the beginning, although it proves to be a successful set-up mechanism for the films first “oh, shit” moment. But once that moment comes, The Ides of March quickly blooms into a political thriller full of maneuvering and one-upmanship. Luckily, the “oh, shit” moments keep coming and with them I got some actual chills.
Throughout the movie, Gosling’s character finds himself struggling with remaining loyal to the candidate he believes in or going after his own career goals. Throw in a romantic interest played by Wood and the story becomes even more complex. In fact, some of the best scenes take place off the campaign trail between Gosling and Wood.
Clooney’s Gov. Morris is relegated to a supporting role until a key scene with Gosling (possibly the best scene of the movie). All of Gosling’s scenes with Hoffman are acted brilliantly, but I really believe the best scenes are the scenes with Wood.
In reality, it’s Gosling who carries this film and takes it to a higher level. The complexity of his portrayal of his character’s emotions and mental evolution (or is it?) will most likely become a case study for other actors. His role in this film has Oscar potential written all over it. Going back to my earlier point, at times, he doesn’t need to use words to be effective. His face does all the work.
Aside from the initially slow 30 minutes, The Ides of March is one of the best political thrillers to come out in years. It will draw you in in a way not so different than a real political campaign. It’s full of unexpected twists that kept me guessing up until the end. Clooney directs it at a pace and with an intensity that should earn him more time in the director’s chair.
I have no doubt The Ides of March will perform well at the box office given its stellar cast, but I can’t help but wonder if this film would have fared better in 2012. Sure the election season is underway, but as a marketer, I think the relevance of the film in 2012 would serve it better. Regardless, it’s still a great flick definitely worth seeing. The buzz around it most likely won’t let up until well after Oscar season.
All photos courtesy of Columbia Pictures.