George Clooney is Gov. Mike Morris. He’s a progressive presidential candidate working the primary in Ohio and stuck in a life-and-death battle for his party’s nomination.
Win there and win the nomination.
Winning is where the intrigue comes to play. Ryan Gosling and Philip Seymour Hoffman play Morris’ political strategy tag team. They’re the very best. Speech and policy making, media manipulation, fact manipulation, poll analysis and spin doctoring are their specialty.
Gosling’s Stephen Myers is especially interesting to Morris’ competition. He’s invited to talk to them about switching sides. Myers jumps at the invite. That decision, what he learns in the meeting and a relationship with a campaign intern leads to disaster.
That disaster bleeds into the campaign.
Shakespeare said it best in what may be the original political thriller Julius Caesar when the soon to be assassinated Roman leader is warned of impending danger by the soothsayer who said, “Beware the Ides of March.”
In this case, actor/director/writer Clooney titled his movie after the date and has crafted a dangerous movie about politics on the inside.
The acting is as good as acting gets. Gosling, Clooney and Hoffman are joined by Evan Rachel Wood as the intern and Paul Giamatti, Jeffrey Wright and Marisa Tomei in small, but important, supporting roles.
Clooney the director — as his Oscar and Golden Globe nominated Good Night and Good Luck also demonstrated — is a superb storyteller. He nails the nail-biting intrigue found on the inside of politics. The stakes are high. Gosling’s Myers and those on the election team believe deeply in their candidate’s message and that he, and only he, can save the nation from the disastrous course it has taken.
The negative. While it fits the character and some of it makes sense, much of the governor’s rhetoric is simplistic and rather than inspire, the speeches and the political stance of the campaign come off as a bit idealistic and overly preachy. While reasons for Myers and others to buy into Morris’ bid are important, Clooney and his co-writers could have spent more time crafting Morris’ political views.
The message of Clooney’s film is the power being sought and the high stakes have even those with high ideals doing whatever it takes to survive. That passion leads to the question — does the end justify the means?
In the case of Ides of March it does.
Mr. Movie rating: 4 1/2 stars
Rated R for mature themes, language, sex. It opens Friday, Oct. 7 at Regal’s Columbia Center 8, at the Fairchild Cinemas 12 and at Grand Cinemas Walla Walla.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on video.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.