The Ides of March’ captivates
In a nation filled with citizens who grow ever more distrustful of politicians and government, what can Oscar winner George Clooney do but step behind the camera and give us a film that shows us not only dirty politicians, but the minds behind their campaigns?
In “The Ides of March,” Ryan Gosling plays Stephen Myers, a young idealistic campaign manager for the governor of Pennsylvania, Mike Morris, played by Clooney. Morris has almost snagged the Democratic Party nomination when secrets about his personal life and those of his associates begin to threaten his bid for the presidency. Myers holds all the cards in this political thriller, and he manipulates and is manipulated by friends, lovers and enemies alike.
Clooney is marvelous at both directing and acting: he urges the story along at a quick and exciting pace, and is able to capture great performances from many respectable actors, including Philip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Giamatti, who are thrilling to watch as rival campaign managers. Clooney understands that violence is not necessary to make audiences squirm; a more effective tool is suspense.
The undisputed highlight of “The Ides of March” is Ryan Gosling. Gosling is typically very serious and intense in his roles, but here he has found a character that his intensity is a perfect match for. He makes the audience simultaneously empathize and loathe Myers, a trick any good politician should know. Gosling brings both a wide-eyed innocence and enthusiasm as well as a dark shrewdness and hunger for power to his role.
Alexandre Desplat’s score rings of patriotism, bringing to mind the epic battles that forged the country that the characters fight so bitterly over. Seeing a master manipulator like Myers featured in front of the American flag to the tune of a battle march would turn any American’s stomach.
“The Ides of March” is a dramatic and detailed look into the American campaign system – and its revelations are chilling. If these men and women are true representations of politicians, than whom exactly have we elected to represent us. Clooney’s Morris sets himself up as an idealist who will not bend his values to win the election, but later he is revealed to have extremely poor judgment. Myers is young and impressionable, eager to fight and eager to win through playing by the rules, though as he says, “there’s an exception to every rule.” It is fascinating to watch not only the solid performances in the film, but the tragic degradation of morals and the inevitable fall of the powerful.
Erin Bell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org