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Review: The Ides Of March

bill bodkin looks at the new political potboiler from director George Clooney …

And the Oscar goes to …

This is a phrase could be one that the cast and crew of George Clooney’s new political drama/thriller The Ideas of March could be hearing a lot of this awards season. Full of brilliant performances and a beautifully written script that borrows more from Shakespeare than just its title, The Ides Of March, to me, is the front-runner for a room full of trophies this season.

Not since I left the theater after The Social Network, has a film left me staggered. It still resonating with me nearly a day after I saw the credits roll. The dialogue is still ringing in my ears, the images still seared onto my mind’s eye, the possible theories and questions the film raises still bouncing through my brain like a pinball.

What The Ides Of March as a movie does is examine what happens to a pure belief when it’s thrown into a corrupt system — then it examines what the people will do to make sure that that belief, no matter what the cost, survives within that system. The man whose pure idea is challenged here is hot-shot political campaign shark Stephen Myers (Ryan Gosling). Steve desperately and unflaggingly believes that presidential candidate Governor Mike Morris (George Clooney) is not only the man who should become President but the perfect man to change the country for the better.

However, as expected, things go awry for Stephen and we watch with white knuckle excitement as we wonder, A.) will Stephen remain true to his idea which is based on pure idealistic hope, or B.) will his idea become corrupted and twisted by the corrupt and twisted field of politics he is working in?

This plotline alone would make for a great film, but what makes The Ides Of March just that much better is there are so many complications to Steve’s predicament. Every character he runs into throws a monkey wrench, whether they know it or not, into Stephen’s ideas and philosophies. And to watch this brilliantly unravel onscreen is as tense and compelling as any classic Hitchockian thriller, minus the suspenseful score.

Beyond the world of the film, The Ides Of March also makes a statement about both its actors and its director.

From an acting standpoint, the film is Ryan Gosling’s coming-out party as a leading man. Yes, he’s shown us his acting chops in Half Nelson, which he was nominated for an Oscar, but here, he gets to the show the world just how good he is on a grand stage — a large budget film directed by a member of Hollywood’s elite. Gosling is brilliant in his performance, balancing cockiness and naivety, slow-boiling range and stone cold resolve. Even when dialogue-less, his presence is immense. His facial expressions tell as much about his character any of the brilliant lines he delivers.

Outside of Gosling, this film is a return to form for Paul Giamatti. After his Oscar nomination for Cinderella Man, Giamatti’s resume of high-profile films hasn’t been too amazing (Shoot ‘Em Up, Duplicity, Fred Claus), yet his under-the-radar work (Cold Souls) and his TV work (John Adams) has been critically lauded. This is his return to A-game drama, and his work as the jaded yet savvy campaign manager Tom Duffy has him knocking on the door of another Supporting Actor nomination. With that being said, don’t count out the always-brilliant Phillip Seymour Hoffman, who just kills it with every line as Duffy’s rival and Steve’s boss, Paul Zarra. Watching Hoffman act in anything is scruffy poetry in motion.

Then there’s Clooney. It’s doubtful he will not get a nod for his role as the Obama-esque Govenor Morris, as I believe he’ll get a Best Actor nod for the Alexander Payne dramedy The Descendants. However, this film isn’t about Clooney the actor; it’s about Clooney the director. In many ways, Clooney’s achievement as a director runs parallel to Gosling’s as an actor. Clooney has an Oscar nod as a director for the absolutely wondrous yet intimate drama Good Night, And Good Luck. Here, he’s on a much more grandiose stage, and he executes his ideas with cinematic flare and grace. He evokes great performances from all his actors, from the big guns like Hoffman and Giamatti to younger supporting actors like Evan Rachel Wood and Max Minghella. His shot choices — in particular Gosling in complete silhouette, head hung in shame in front of a massive American flag — are the kind of breathtaking shots that evoke a “damn” from moviegoers. This film proves that if he chose to leave the leading-man role, Clooney could spend the rest of his days being one of the most exciting directors out there.

The Ides Of March is a must-see. Like The Social Network, it’s an immediate film that people should watch, discuss, debate and think about it. It has a strong message, one that resonates in our current political climate but also one that’s been discussed since the days of Shakespeare when he warned audiences about the winds of that fateful month.

Ides of March Rating: 9 out of 10

Bill Bodkin
Bill Bodkinhttps://thepopbreak.com
Bill Bodkin is the editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break, and most importantly a husband, and father. Ol' Graybeard writes way too much about wrestling, jam bands, Asbury Park music, HBO shows, and can often be seen under his season DJ alias, DJ Father Christmas. He is the co-host of the Socially Distanced Podcast (w/Al Mannarino) which drops weekly on Apple, Google, Anchor & Spotify. He is the co-host of the monthly podcasts -- Anchored in Asbury, TV Break and Bill vs. The MCU.


  1. This is entertaining even if suspense barely builds and pay-off revelations come with little surprise. Clooney, as a director, is also able to draw-out amazing performances from this whole ensemble cast. Great review. Check out mine when you get the chance.

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