The Ides of March (M)

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Review byMatthew Turner21/10/2011

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 101 mins

Smartly directed and featuring terrific performances from a top-notch ensemble cast, this is an engaging and occasionally gripping political drama but it's also rather stagey and its supposedly shocking twists aren't quite as dramatic as the film seems to think they are.

What's it all about?
Directed by George Clooney, The Ides of March is based on a play (Farragut North) by Beau Willimon and stars Ryan Gosling as Stephen Meyers, an ambitious press spokesman working on the presidential campaign of whiter-than-white Democratic candidate Mike Morris (George Clooney), alongside experienced campaign director Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman). When the opposition's shrewd campaign manager (Paul Giamatti) attempts to poach him, Stephen finds himself in an unexpectedly compromised position, none of which is helped by his beginning a secret affair with a well-connected intern (Evan Rachel Wood as Molly).

The Good
Clooney has assembled a terrific ensemble cast, all of whom duly deliver tip top performances: Gosling is superb as the slightly too naïve Meyers and it's a treat to see the always excellent Hoffman and Giamatti sinking their teeth into their respective parts, while Wood is suitably sexy as Molly and Clooney is perfectly cast as Morris. There's also strong support from Jeffrey Wright as an opportunistic Senator and from Marisa Tomei as an overly friendly journalist, though Jennifer Ehle is criminally under-used as Morris' wife Cindy.

The dialogue is excellent, though the film occasionally fails to transcend its stage origins, especially when the speechifying starts: in particular, you feel the entire film has been written around one key speech with a killer punch-line that it would be churlish to reveal here. That said, there are some excellent moments, such as the neat reveal of the opening sequence (with Stephen reading Morris' speech to an empty auditorium) or pretty much every scene involving either Giamatti or Hoffman.

The Bad
The main problem with the film is that the plot is ultimately rather too simplistic, while its supposedly shocking dramatic twists are actually entirely predictable. This is largely the fault of the source material, which seems to labour under the delusion that its audience have a) never heard of The West Wing and b) forgotten the Clinton years.

Worth seeing?
The Ides of March is an enjoyable, well directed political drama that's worth seeing for its terrific performances, though its predictable plot means that it ultimately lacks the dramatic impact it should have had.

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The Ides of March (M)
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Content updated: 24/03/2019 13:24

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