‘Ides of March’ Review

Director: George Clooney

Cast: Ryan Gosling, George Clooney, Phillip Seymour Hoffnan, Paul Giamatti, Marisa Tomeii, Evan Rachel Wood, Jeffery Wright

Plot: An idealistic campaigner working for a Presidential candidate finds his values and loyalties put to the test when he becomes embroiled in a potential political scandal.

Review: Imagine, if you will, that the character of Michael Corleone and his character arc had existing in the world of West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin. That’s the gist of The Ides of March, and it’s bloody brilliant. Easily Clooney’s most competent piece of film-making to date, he challenges himself both as an actor and a director with Man of the Year Ryan Gosling making a third impressive mark on our screens for 2011.

This is a movie that reminds the viewer what the most important elements of movie-making is. Strip away the effects, the 3D, the gimmicks, the noise and you’ll be left with a story and performers. Both elements or so strong and so deftly handled that it doesn’t need anything else to sell it. Many of the characters harbor a darker side to their personalities and everyone holds their cards to close to their chest, leaving the actors to convey the depths of the roles and the emotions they’re feeling through stone-eyed close-ups. Clooney has obviously cast the major roles with this is mind, with subtle performers like Gosling, Giamatti and Hoffman playing manipulative to a tee. Evan Rachel Woods is also strong as the character who inadvertently bring Gosling into a dangerous game, putting her best performance into the best role she’s had since…well, ever.

Being a political thriller may encourage some people to bring a pillow alone with them, but you rarely see such a tightly woven tale in this day and age. The political side of things are explained early in the piece, albeit a little clumsily, but once you know who’s who and what’s what there isn’t room to breath. Keeping the drama driven by the people and not some political conspiracy keeps the viewer invested, and the sly, low-key ways that new information is revealed creates rushes of tension that aren’t spoiled by posturing or monologues. Large plot developments occur over the phone or in innocuous meetings, giving them a real world feel. This tone is helped along by the story being driven by themes of trust and loyalty, not hinging on who wins the election.

Ides of March is easily one of the most impressive movies of the year, and the best work Clooney has produced from the directors chair. Oscar nominations await.