Staff Reviews: The Ides of March by Martin Barker, Front of House

Clooney. Gosling. Hoffman. Giamatti. Wood. Tomei. I could end my review here and just leave those names sitting on the screen and let you come to the natural conclusion that this film is clearly going to be brilliant. However, I feel obliged to give some further comment on why this has been one of my favourite films of the year so far.

Clooney (who also directs) plays charismatic and idealistic Pennsylvania Governor Mike Morris, who is one of two still-standing Democratic Presidential contenders on the verge of the Ohio primary. He supported by his campaign team consisting of campaign veteran Paul (Philip Seymour Hoffman) supported by their talented and idealistic and up and coming Press Secretary Stephen (Ryan Gosling). They are faced with the task of constructing a winning campaign strategy whilst up against the formidable opposition campaign team headed by Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti.) Duffy is much more comfortable taking a no holds barred approach, compared to his opposite number Paul who prefers to stick to the book. However, will the aspiring Stephen be able to hold onto his ideals? Or will he and the team be sucked into a winner takes all, dirty tricks campaign? There is also the distraction of pretty and feisty intern Molly… it’s never just another day in the office.

Clooney’s directing, although not groundbreaking, delivers exactly what the film needs and he’s proving himself to be a really astute and political director with his film output. This film clearly leans to the left, but is more than critical enough to offset anyone who may think it may be too politically aligned for their tastes. Now onto performances…

Clooney’s success is in letting the ensemble cast shine and he plays his supporting role excellently (I couldn’t help but thinking I would vote for him, he has such a presidential air about him.) The real focus of the film is on Stephen, played by one of the greatest actors of his generation, Ryan Gosling. A big claim I know, but I struggle to think of many performances where he hasn’t excelled, especially following on from the fantastic Drive. Gosling captures his character brilliantly; absorbing all the ups and downs he encounters effortlessly and completely engrossing the audience. As would be expected, all the support cast are incredibly strong, Giamatti standing out as the brilliantly sneaky Duffy.

As a Politics student in my final year it’s great to see a really strong, clever political thriller in cinemas. Some may find the concept a reasonably accepted truth of certain aspects of the political system and so feel there is nothing new about this. However, this is an entertaining, clever and brilliantly acted thriller and definitely a refreshing cut above the rest of its genre. Can we claim this film to be a success, to borrow from a current president…YES WE CAN!

Martin Barker works in the café bar and when not struggling to balance your meals from the kitchen to the table or watching films, he enjoys live music and exploring new places.

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