Film Review: The Ides Of March [London Film Festival 2011]

on Wednesday, October 26, 2011
'The Ides Of March' (UK Release: 28 Oct '11) // Words: Raman Kamboh

The Ides Of March UK quad movie poster

There are few films in modern times that so aptly balance elements of contemporary political history with the grip of a deft thriller. 'The Ides Of March' is slick and deserves the plaudits it is receiving. The film is a powerhouse of great acting and a decently compelling plot that leaves you wondering whether George Clooney has actually been directing a lot longer than his 4 films.

The story centres on Governor Mike Morris’ (Clooney) bid to become a presidential candidate, taking the fight to a swing state of Ohio. For Middle America’s future, he is the ideal runner. Progressive on the frontier issues such as the Constitution, Religion and Justice, Morris strikes chords with US democratic candidates gone by.

Morris is flanked by his two communications officers: young but experienced Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling) and the veteran Paul Zara (Phillip Seymour Hoffman). During a fling with intern Molly Stearns (Evan Rachel Wood), Stephen stumbles on a secret that threatens to derail the campaign. Meanwhile rival press officer Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti) headhunts Stephen to revive his senator’s flagging bid for the state.

The film is at its strongest with the interplay of Ryan Gosling’s and Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s characters. Clooney’s portrayal of "loyalty" in politics exposes it as a fickle product of the communications engine. Loyalty to party, to employees, to public policy and causes, can all be traded off as bargaining tools in for endorsements and power.

The international appeal of the film is that there is scandal and infighting in every nation’s political landscape. UK audiences will not long have forgotten the war between Blair and Brown, with policy aides Peter Mandelson and Alistair Campbell spinning the wheels of New Labour.

What is great about 'The Ides Of March' is that Clooney doesn’t need to delve too deeply into narrative to get a point about political morality off its chest. Clever direction and cinematography shows that practically everyone in the political machine is duplicitous - their back room beliefs and the podium performance. It is a neat picaresque of a system susceptible to ethical corruption.

Ryan Gosling in The Ides Of March

Though not the most original of plots after the revelation, you feel that you are still watching something that hasn’t been quite done before; a montage of cinematic reflections on past failures of Democrats – from Dukakis to Edwards. It is almost unnoticeably light on character development with some protagonists i.e. Molly Stearns and reporter Ida Horowicz (Marisa Tomei).

Without spoilers, there is one sizeable continuity error regarding Ida and a slightly unsatisfactory ending. One might supposedly argue that the ending is crafted this way. After all, politics is often unsatisfying. Yet as the dust settles, 'The Ides Of March' is perhaps Clooney’s best effort yet.


American Express returned as headline sponsor of the 55th BFI London Film Festival, including hosting the UK premiere of 'The Ides of March', out on wide release this Friday. Sponsorship of the Festival forms an important cornerstone of American Express’ Preferred Seating Programme, providing Cardmembers with special access to a wide range of events.

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