The Ides Of March - Blu-ray Review

'a tetchy, dense and dangerous masterpiece. A peek into politics as incendiary as All The President's Men, with the drama and crescendoing tension to match'

Take Ryan Gosling's two fantastic films from last year (Drive and this, political thriller The Ides Of March) and, clearly, one obscured the other. Whilst Drive was a slice of ultra-violence and neon-lit cool, The Ides Of March was overtly political, publicised as being based on a play, bearing a moniker which directly references Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. It's easy to see why Drive won out in the battle for popular coverage.

The runt of a litter of two, The Ides Of March was, therefore, rather unfairly ignored, although at least The Academy recognised it with a nomination in a major category (Adapted Screenplay), something which Drive didn't manage.

Those who did search out the film saw a tetchy, dense and dangerous masterpiece. A peek into politics as incendiary as All The President's Men, with the drama and crescendoing tension to match. The trailer suggests that what we're about to watch is a character piece focusing on the professional infidelity of Gosling's campaign manager Stephen Meyers but the reality is much trickier of plot and amalgamated of elements; death, betrayal, emptiness, moral corruption, it's all here and it's all moving around the feet of a US Governer, Mike Morris, played by director George Clooney.

Clooney, no stranger to appearing in the films he has directed, talks in the extras of having to do it to secure financing, an entirely believable excuse. Clooney's wisdom though is exactly how much he allows himself to take over the film once he's in it. This is less Leatherheads, more Good Night And Good Luck, or Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind. Clooney, although ultimately one of the subjects, gives the majority of the screen time over to Gosling, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Evan Rachel Wood, and the film is all the better for it. Because of this Morris comes across as aloof and perhaps somewhat secretive, keeping his own council and making his own decisions, despite the best efforts of Meyers and Zara (Hoffman), a fact which the shuddering conclusions (and there are more than one) rely on.

The ideology of Meyers (the film opens with him giving his version of an honest political speech and ends with him being asked an important question) is the subject here and the structural beauty of Clooney's film is that he just about gets away with applying it to everything. Meyers, an idealist who can see that dirty deals need to be made, is forced to experience the consequences of that line of action. We see it every day. The hero sportsman who is revealed as a cheat, the campaigner who is outed as having suspect personal habits, the politician who behaves like a mob boss. Like Meyers, we accept a certain amount of moral corruption and are then inevitably forced to face overt moral degradation.

The process of this happening makes for thrilling cinema, from both a political and a human perspective, with at least as much violence and cool as Drive and probably even more dirty hands.




Look further...

'Career victory wins over virtue, that seems to be the message, which is hardly surprising' - Flix Chatter, 3.5/5

6 comments:

  1. I liked the film but can't help feel that it has very little to say about modern politics that we didn't know/assume already. It doesn't necessarily need have to say something per se but after watching it my first thought was "is there more". Well crafted but lacking the anger moral outrage/intrigue of really good political dramas.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I liked the human element of it, the way it said something about politics through the interactions and concessions it forces people to have and make. But yes, see your point. There was big backgrounding of a substantial political point in there; a war or something similar. Even without that I thought it did its job of critiquing 'the way things are' pretty well - it kept the focus on the individual corruption.

      Delete
    2. I agree. The human element was what I liked best, and the character that most stayed with me was actually Evan Rachel Wood. She gets used, abused and then discarded. That says an awful lot about the political process.

      Delete
    3. Yes, with you there. Thought all the characters were brilliant veiled - unlike a lot of films you don't see who they and what they're capable of straight away - but none of them work without her. Clooney's I thought was quite special. Unlike a lot of political films he only shows us Morris' public side for a long, long time, before revealing the man behind the posters.

      Delete
  2. Great review. I liked both this and Drive. They demonstrate Gosling's potential as an all time great in the likes of Hoffman , Pacino and Nicholson.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, agree completely. More of this and Drive-type films please, less of the Crazy, Stupid, Loves.

      Delete