Although George Clooney has been entertaining audiences for years, he's only truly found his stride this past decade with great roles in movies like "Michael Clayton" and "Up in the Air." He has evolved so much as an actor that sometimes people forget that he nearly killed the Batman franchise in the late '90s. In addition to performing, Clooney has proven that he's one of the rare big-name modern actors that possess the integrity and expertise of a great filmmaker. With "The Ides of March," Clooney delivers an often captivating and beautifully acted political drama that ranks just a step below his exceptional "Good Night, And Good Luck."
Clooney plays Mike Morris, the governor of Pennsylvania who is on the verge of becoming the Democratic presidential candidate. This is merely a supporting performance though. The real star of the movie Ryan Gosling as Stephen Meyers, one of the key players behind the campaign. Meyers works alongside Paul Zara, Morris' experienced campaign manager, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman. Also working on the campaign is Evan Rachel Wood as Molly Stearns, an intern who Meyers has been shacking up with.
Meyers has complete confidence in Morris. He soon uncovers a secret that might cost the governor his candidacy though. Meyers finds himself stuck in the middle of the cover up and soon his loyalty is tested among his friends, employers, and lovers. I don't want to delve too much into that fraction of the movie though because I want people to experience "The Ides of March" fresh.
Gosling is nothing short of phenomenal here. His creation of Meyers is a surprising character that does not represent the little man trying to expose the corrupt politician like in "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington." Rather, Meyer's exemplifies what a messy game politics can be. Through his selfish personal journey to success, Meyer's learns that nobody makes it in this business without betraying a few associates.
Clooney beautifully photographs "The Ides of March" with shadowy lighting, at times almost giving the picture a film noir look. The screenplay, which Clooney, Grant Heslov, and Beau Willimon adapted from a play, explodes with entrancing dialog and wit. I don't think that people in real life, even the ones involved in politics, are as well spoken as the characters in "The Ides of March." But I'd be lying if I said that they weren't always interesting to listen to.
Even the dialog-free sequences are full of great tension. There's a standout scene in which Clooney and Hoffman share a conversation in a black van. We never see the conversation itself as the camera focuses on the car's exterior for almost a minute. But the scene is so much more effective and intense than an actual exchange of dialog would have been.
With so many positive attributes, I came close to giving "The Ides of March" a perfect rating. But I was a tad letdown by the final 10 minutes of the picture. A part of me desired some sort of revelation on top of Morris' secret and to learn more about this mysterious politician. Instead, the movie works up to a predictable climax and slow falling action. I think a lot of audiences are going to walk out of "The Ides of March" wanting a little more. But sometimes the sentiment of wanting more is evidence of a truly great film.