The Ides of March

Year: 2011
Production Co: Cross Creek Pictures
Studio: Columbia
Director: George Clooney
Producer: George Clooney/Grant Heslov
Writer: George Clooney/Grant Heslov/Beau Willimon
Cast: Ryan Gosling, George Clooney, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Evan Rachel Wood, Paul Giamatti, Marisa Tomei, Jeffrey Wright, Max Minghella, Jennifer Ehle

I think a lot of people who saw this film wanted it to have more guns. I've heard many say they didn't think it ever really caught hold of and engaged you, but I find the documentary-like distance fascinating, especially if it manages to convey emotional urgency without the use of screaming or similar histrionics. Even a main character who commits suicide does so without ever bursting into gales of tears or spoken with a raised voice.

It's a very effective document for the cynicism, deal-making, backstabbing and machinations of the making of a politician in our times. Ryan Gosling is Stephen, an idealistic but knowing political staffer trying to shepherd state governor Morris (Clooney) to the White House. He works for an even more jaded campaign manager in Paul (Hoffman, brilliant in another role he was born to play) but he isn't so cynical he's not intrigued when the opposition's manager (Giamatti) calls to ask him to switch teams, telling Stephen he has the endorsement from the senator (Wright) who will decide who's in the running.

While he tries to conduct an affair with a cute intern (in a common misstep for Hollywood, Molly – played by Evan Rachel Wood – is way too mature for her character's age), Stephen is torn between working for a candidate he believes in and wondering if Morris really has no chance.

While the wheeling and dealing about the endorsement is blowing up, Molly drops her own bombshell, one that will cripple Morris' changes if it gets out. With Ida (Tomei), an all-too smart reporter sniffing around, Stephen is suddenly on very shaky ground. Even when he acts, he discovers everything he thought he knew has been a carefully planned ruse by people more cutthroat and devious than he is.

It's a brilliant 70s-era style political thriller, all evasive dialogue and whip-smart people, and a great example of how dialogue and character can make great drama without the need for a car chase or police shootout.

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