Going back to George Clooney today for his other major political film, the pretty underrated The Ides of March a film focusing on the perils of the election process, not for proper multi-party elections per say but for the Presidential Primaries for the Democrat Party, something that not many films have covered.
The plot of the film concerns the back-stabbing and political intrigue behind the Democratic Primaries between multiple members of the party. The main focus centres around Junior Campaign Manager Stephen Meyers and the attempts made by the opposition to get him out of the campaign to level the field. At the same time, Meyers uncovers a pretty minor conspiracy that threatens to cloud his high views of the person he’s campaigning for. Now this is a pretty unique way for a political film to go as you’d often expect all the plot points concerning back-stabbing to occur between the different parties, not in a single party and the well known dirty tactics used in the primaries for candidates to gain the upper hand make this feel like something that could actually happen. A big strength in the film is that Meyers doesn’t end up quitting his job because of what he finds out about the candidate, he joins the other side as revenge for getting fired, ending up falling into a major political trap that could end his career if it wasn’t for his knowledge of what the candidate did. The film shows how effectively you can turn knowledge that could end careers into something that could save careers and I really like that Meyer’s doesn’t turn away from the candidate after he finds out what the candidate did, the film makes it clear that the candidate, Mike Morris, is the best chance the Democrats have of taking the Presidency and Meyers knows this and doesn’t turn away from him because of one mistake Morris made.
I also really like the integration of politics in this film. All the attempts made to win over a Senator from North Carolina to gain the upper hand for the Democratic National Convention feel very much like what actual politicians would do in terms of trying to offer up the better deal to get the Senator’s support in the long run and this, along with the constant scheming and back-stabbing show that both of the candidates are willing to do anything in order to gain the upper hand in the election. This also works in terms of tactics during the election, in particular Morris being willing to lose Ohio in order to gain more votes in the long run at the DNC and to bring some discredit upon his opponent by spinning it so that the Republicans voted for him so that they had a better chance of winning the general election.
The acting in the film is uniformly excellent. Ryan Gosling is excellent as Meyers who sells his devotion to Morris throughout the film as well as his naivety over the extent of the backstabbing in the political world. As the film goes on though, Gosling shows how much the character is learning and how he is able to use it all to get himself a much better position in the campaign. George Clooney is brilliant as Morris, you get this real likability making it so clear why he is the best choice for the Democrat candidate but we also see how ruthless a tactician he is in the long run and he shows at the end that he can be beaten by good tactics. Paul Giamatti and Phillip Seymour Hoffman do great work as the campaign managers for the opposition and Morris respectively. You see how ruthless they are in getting the upper hand and the way they both interact with Gosling in the scenes when he is being played is excellent. Evan Rachel Wood gives a really good performance as Molly. You can see throughout the film that the character is out of her depth in the political world and, while she is intelligent, she can be played very easily. The chemistry between her and Gosling is excellent and the way she reacts to the growing political tension surrounding her is excellent. Jeffrey Wright, Max Minghella and Marisa Tomei also do great work in supporting roles rounding of an excellent cast.
Overall The Ides of March is a brilliant film. It feels like one of the most honest political films in recent years by showing all the back-stabbing within a party, the use of politics is incredibly intelligent and the cast is uniformly excellent, one of the best political films of recent years.
My Rating: 5/5