George Clooney is a bit of a sore subject in my household.

You see, while I don’t actually mind him, and have happily sat through most of his films in the past, my missus can’t stand him.

In fact, as far as she is concerned, Clooney is best summed up by the South Park episode that pictured him as a ‘smug cloud’ sweeping the States (check it out if you get the chance).

Every so often though a Clooney film comes along that pushes all the right buttons and leaves us nodding in agreement – and The Ides Of March is definitely one of those films.

Starting out as a simple political drama, about 25 minutes in the plot really picks up pace, throwing up twist after twist.

By the conclusion you have a gripping thriller on your hands, with all the cast and crew emerging with tremendous credit.

Directed by Clooney himself, the flick is mainly driven by Ryan Gosling as political consultant Stephen, one of the chief architects behind Mike Morris’ (Clooney) proposed run to the White House.

While Morris provides the charm, the soundbites and the faceAmericawants to see, it is Stephen who pens most of the speeches, canvases for support and wheels and deals in the background.

Joining him in this task is Philip Seymour Hoffman as Paul, as they battle a rival candidate’s team headed by fellow consultant Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti).

Stephen, while young, still has plenty of campaign experience under his belt, but he maintains that sense of fair play and idealistic thinking that most would think absent in this line of work.

All that is shattered though when corruption and scandal comes calling, and suddenly the consultant is thrown into a series of life-changing decisions that will affect not only his own future, but those of the country itself.

As mentioned above everyone is on top form here, with an excellent cast also including Evan Rachel Wood, Marisa Tomei and Jeffrey Wright.

Gosling is excellent as a man losing his footing on the slippery summit of politics, while Clooney exudes that mix of charm and authority that makes him perfect for a role like this.

Kudos must also go to the silver one for his direction, which while never flashy, is certainly assured.

The only real stumbling block is that opening segment, which is far too ‘knowing’ and ‘clever’ for its own good, with too many of those ‘no one would say that in real life’ type swathes of dialogue.

But stick with it, as there is a pretty impressive thriller just waiting to bust out, and while the central message (politics is dirty) may hardly be anything new, this is pretty damn entertaining nonetheless.

 

EXTRAS: Commentary, four featurettes (including ‘The role of a political consultant’)

 

Released on March 5

[rating=4]

About The Author

Simon Fitzjohn

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written two books, one on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014) and the other on the history of the character Norman Bates (2015). His third book, on the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker, is due in 2017.