If you are not already cynical about the state of politics you may be after watching “The Ides of March”. This film is not about ideology; it keeps its focus on the human beings who tangle themselves in the political process. The story could easily focus on a Republican primary campaign by changing just a very few words in the script. The vital part is the human interchange. There’s virtually no end of double-cross, who leaked what, and the results of crass ambition.
George Clooney, who also wrote part of the script and directed the film, plays Mike Morris, popular (Democratic, but that does not matter) governor of Pennsylvania, who is locked in a tight primary fight with Senator Pullman a less colorful figure, mostly seen in debate scenes. Although the movie is supposedly focused on the primary battle, it is really an exploration of the ethics and emotions of the assorted campaign workers – plus a couple of reporters – who wage the backstage war. At stake in the plot is the Ohio primary vote that will probably decide who will be the party’s nominee. There’s a key bloc of votes up for grabs, under the control of an Ohio pol who wants to be the next Secretary of State.
There are a slew of superb performances: Ryan Gosling who plays Stephen Meyers, a young tactician on the election staff; Philip Seymour Hoffman as the campaign director; Paul Giamatti as Tom Duffy, Hoffman’s c o u n t e r p a r t in the Pullman camp; and newcomer Evan Rachel Wood as Molly Stearns, a young intern who becomes sexually entangled with Stephen.
Throughout the film, issues of loyalty and honor rise above the rest of the plot – thus the title reference to Mr. Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar”. Beautifully directed by Mr. Clooney, the film is shot primarily in semi-darkness that adds to the nature of the story. Interspersed with some understated scenes with focus on the suave Governor Morris are some high octane confrontations between Mr. Hoffman and Mr. Gosling. Throw in a twist of an aging Marisa Tomei as reporter Ida Horowicz and Max Minghella as a young campaign assistant yearning to get Stephen’s job, and the result is a clever probe into the psyches of those who get caught up in the political web.
Do not expect guns, gore or glory. This is a fairly complicated plot that is well handled all the way around without offering modern Hollywood’s high intensity action scenes.