Film review: The Ides of March

By Chad Utke

For the record, I’d probably vote for George Clooney if his name popped up on my local election ballot. Wouldn’t you?

He has built a reputation as one of the classiest and most charismatic men in Hollywood — an Oscar-nominated actor on-screen and an active advocate of resolving the conflict in Darfur. If you happen to need any other reason to appreciate him, I’ll give you one more.

In one of his most recent projects, The Ides of March, Clooney takes on the three-headed monster of acting, directing and writing with the hope of bringing his certain brand of class to the political thriller genre.

Starring a dynamite cast that includes the likes of Ryan Gosling, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Giamatti, The Ides of March is an adept adaptation of the play Farragut North by Beau Willimon, who wrote the screenplay with Clooney. It follows a young political prodigy and his transformation from idealist to realist as he experiences the dark underside of American politics.

Though the premise of the movie is rather conventional in its political roots, its tightly-wound script and stand-out performances set it above other politically-grounded films.

Gosling plays Stephen Myers, a press secretary on the campaign team of Pennsylvania senator and presidential candidate Mike Morris (Clooney). As the Ohio primary closes in, the race has been reduced to two men: Morris, the people’s choice and a man of integrity and principle, and his counterpart, a hard-lined democrat named Pullman.

With victory in sight, the Morris campaign train begins to derail as Pullman’s campaign director (Giamatti) drops the gloves and begins to play dirty. The tricks used by the opposing side start to plant seeds of doubt in the mind of Myers as he questions the integrity of his own candidate and campaign director (Hoffman). It’s not until the doubt begins to fester in Myers’s mind that he comes across a scandal that could unhinge everything he’s worked for and believed in.

Once a proponent of noble beliefs and values, Myers is faced with the stark realization that idealism might be untenable within the confines of his current political reality.

It seems as though every character has some sort of secret or a hidden agenda that drives them to unearth skeletons in everyone else’s closet to divert attention from their own.

At the heart of this film is the question that faces a society where shady dealings and backroom shenanigans have become the norm: How much farther can we sink? Is it not the idealists that we cling to now — those so bereft of immorality that we can see a light at the end of the tunnel through them?

Clooney’s window into the political world of scandal is a cynical one that highlights even the most idealistic of people might not be immune to the pitfalls of corruption.

The leading actor and his powerhouse of fellow cast members ought to garner some serious attention come awards season. In this film, they make what could have been a bland, run-of-the-mill movie into a must-see film that asks serious questions about society while remaining entertaining at every turn.