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Ides of March, The


Stars: George Clooney, Ryan Gosling, Marisa Tomei, Paul Giamatti, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jeffrey Wright, Evan Rachel Wood, Jennifer Ehle, Max Minghella, Ewan Bourne

Director: George Clooney

Producer, director and co-writer Clooney, who modestly bills himself second to costar Gosling, nevertheless deserves high praise for this riveting behind-the-scenes fable whose relentless cynicism confirms so many people’s view of the dubious probity of American politics (or, indeed, politics anywhere) especially now that Republicans and Democrats are gearing up for battle over the re-election or otherwise of Barack Obama.

The Ides of March began life as the play ‘Farragut North’ by Beau Willimon who co-wrote the potent screenplay with Clooney and Grant Heslov, with Clooney ideally casting himself as a liberal Democratic governor, one of the two candidates for his party’s nomination as presidential candidate.

Clooney is good here. His smile is sincere, he succeeds in sounding sincere in the face of the media. And yet, despite all this sincerity, there lurks the core of opportunism that lies behind the façade of every politician who seeks office. This performance is the compelling core of the movie, anchoring the plotting and posing organised by his publicity manager, perfectly played by Gosling, who more than earns his top billing as he learns about the wheeling and dealing that is part and parcel of politicking in the United States - and learns to try and deal with having to compromise his ethics to do the job properly. Hoffman scores too, as Clooney’s seasoned campaign manager for whom the scales have long fallen from his eyes.

Strong supporting performances come from Giamatti as Gosling’s unethical opposite number working for Clooney’s rival, Tomei as a journalist who would doubtless think nothing of telephone hacking if the results were worth it, and Ehle, warmth itself as Clooney's wife. The romance between intern Wood and Gosling, however, is schematic at best and hardly tests her dramatic abilities.

That said, Clooney sensibly stays close to his subjects and the drama to excellent effect. There are none of the flashy flourishes that too many directors pointlessly employ in order to prove their status as auteurs. He illuminates the political drama’s inherent cynicism with considerable force in a film that never loses its grip, boasts a gallery of fine performances and, especially, never resorts to melodrama make its points.

Alan Frank

USA 2011. UK Distributor: Entertainment-One UK. Colour by deluxe.
101 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 23 Oct 2011