George Clooney’s The Ides of March is a political thriller that attempts to thrill with the revelation that human beings are not inherently good. Not much of a revelation and not much of a thriller. Ides of March attempts to make grandiose gestures set to menacing music and shadowy backdrops but ultimately ends up being a fairly straightforward tale of political corruption running its course.
Like many films starring George Clooney (many of which I like quite a bit), the character is George Clooney, except this time he’s a top presidential candidate, Mike Morris. Not a hard sell for a culture obsessed with celebrities and has previously elected a former actor into the White House. The allusions to a different kind of candidate are hard to miss as posters with Clooney’s face closely resemble those of Obama in the 2008 US campaign. Instead of pandering to religious beliefs, Morris stands behind his flavor of atheism and reason. His promised initiatives are ambitious. When tempted to waiver on his convictions in order to gain critical votes, this candidate won’t budge. He makes it clear that there are lines that can’t be crossed – until they can.
Ryan Gosling plays Stephen Meyers, a relatively young but experienced press spokesperson for presidential candidate Mike Morris (George Clooney). The challenge for Meyers and the rest of the campaign staff is winning a tight race between their man and Arkansas Senator Ted Pullman (Michael Mantell). Everything seems to hinge on wrapping up the endorsement of North Carolina Senator Franklin Thompson (Jeffrey Wright). The price for this endorsement is giving Thompson a prized cabinet seat. Morris won’t do it but apparently his competition will. With that news, Pullman’s campaign manager Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti) goes in for the kill. He invites Meyers to lunch to talk about joining the other team. Meyers complies and from there things get further complicated, with numerous plot spoilers throughout.
Not a bad movie by any means, Ides of March is stacked with talented actors who, for the most part, give fine performances. The problem is that the movie takes a while to get going and then once it hits its stride the twists and turns that make up this political thriller aren’t quite as thrilling as Clooney the director seems to think they are. What is left is an above average film stacked with talent.