'The Ides Of March' - A Convincing Tale of Lost Innocence
Film: "The Ides Of March"; Cast: Ryan Gosling, Paul Giamatti, George Clooney, Philip Seymour Hoffman; Director: George Clooney; Rating: ****
Political expediency and intrigue make for fascinating cinema. Fans of this type of cinema recall fondly one of the originals, "All The King's Men", later made into many versions, the last being one where the word 'King's' was replaced by 'President's'.
In all the versions of this movie, the rookie campaign manager loses to a smart politician. What if he did not? What if nobody loses and nobody wins either. "The Ides of March" based on a play 'Farragut North' takes up this theme from 'All The King's Men" and explores it to its ruthless ends and means.
Stephen (Ryan Gosling) is the junior campaign manager for governor Mike Morris (George Clooney) who's looking to win Ohio to guarantee him a presidential nomination. Stephen is an idealist who works for Mike because he thinks this is the man who can bring change the world needs.
Events unleash that threaten to run Mike down. As things get out of control, as power struggle and political expediency intensifies, Stephen finds himself in the middle of a scandal that he hadn't anticipated and couldn't control? Or can he?
"The Ides of March" is a coming-of-age film of a young idealist in the ruthless world of politics, of losing his virginity and innocence to the intrigue and violence of the political world. The focus is not on politics and the politicians, like in 'All the King's Men" but on the rookie and his reaction to things around him.
Clooney is an expert director with an immaculate sense of timing and subtlety. Standing on the backside of a large American flag, Stephen contemplates his idealism even as the US national anthem "Star-Spangled Banner" plays on. The camera could have cut off, or panned out. But it hauntingly lingers on, silently giving a glance into the mind of this idealist.
In another scene where an important character is to be fired, a man in the car calls him inside for a minute and for that entire minute the camera just focuses on the silent car as the man comes out and the job is done. In a normal scenario, the director would have jumped the minute. Clooney chooses to linger on thus heightening the tension of an important minute.
Many politically charged films, like Clooney's directorial venture "Good Night and Good Luck" or "Syriana" where he acted, attempt to expose political intrigue and thus present the truth. Here, political corruption is almost taken for granted, and it is the corruption of one idealistic individual that becomes the focus.
A stellar cast that includes Philip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Giammati gives the film an extra character. Ryan Gosling's innocence works well for the film and Clooney is his usual self.
In the ruthless world of politics, integrity is a political plank without the remotest possibility of existence, deception is a rule and beauty and innocence lie butchered at the altar of expediency. Thankfully there are films like 'The Ides of March' that remind us that it need not be so for cinema. Full marks to Clooney for that.