Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely – Indeed!
Loyalty, deceit, power are all hallmarks of a good American political drama and George Clooney’s ‘The Ides of March’ has them in spades.
Adapted from Beau Willimon’s play, Clooney directs and stars alongside Ryan Gosling in the story of an election campaign were Gosling’s press secretary Stephen Meyers, is powering Clooney’s Democratic Party candidate Mike Morris on the long road to The White House on a political wave of anti-war and environmental policies that reflect the very real activist leanings of the recently arrested George Clooney.
Ahead in the polls and looking like they have the right guy, the democrats are looking certain for election success in the great state of Ohio, when Republican party press master Tom Duffy (Paul Giamati) lulls Gosling into a secret meeting to tempt him to come work for the other side.
Idealistic and honest, Gosling’s awakening to the true loyalty within politics comes when he does the right thing and tells his press boss Paul Zara, (Philip Seymour Hoffman) of his ego polishing meeting with the other side, only for it to backfire and be forced to play his own game of political hardball were all his notions of trust and virtue are thrown to the wind.
At first providing a compelling insight into the workings of American politics ‘The Ides of March’ turns into a morality tale when a scandalous plot turn (winking to a very well-known presidential extramarital indiscretion) gives Gosling the dirt on the not so clean Morris and a chance once more to take his shot at getting his man to The White House.
From a new found position of strength and with newly corrupted morals, Gosling contrives to either bring the house down, or blackmail Morris into getting his post back.
‘Ides’ is fascinating in showing the murky world of politics but lacks any real dramatic punch, drama is thin, but is compensated for with some intriguing dialogue and fine performances from all. But there’s nothing that doesn’t really take any of the fine cast out of third gear.
Hoffman and Giamatti are best of all as the opposing, seasoned campaign managers who show Gosling’s ultimately naïve secretary, the price of trying to have any morality or loyalty and misplacing it. Hoffman particularly so in his delivery of a hard lesson in what broken trust truly means.
Gosling is good as the confident and gifted campaign man, but his schoolboy error in having his head turned doesn’t fit with the young but experienced aides clear intellect, and it is somewhat difficult to believe he would jeopardise everything for what would only appear to be flattery from Giamatti’s headhunting.
Clooney features least becoming more and more enigmatic as events lead to the questioning of who he really is, going from apparent saviour to sleaze, showing the superficiality of politics were a face can hide a multitude of sins.
‘Ides’ gradually coasts, un-dramatically but intriguingly, to an intelligent ‘will he or won’t he’ finale that teasingly leaves the compelling question of what’s most important, career, triumph, or virtue?
A steady, (probably) accurate depiction of the shadowy underbelly of politics, that brilliantly poses another always relevant question, and not just in the world of politics, of how loyal anyone might be in the pursuit of power.
7.5/10 Worth a look.