Stephen Myers (Ryan Gosling) tells reporter Ida (Marisa Tomei) “I’m not naïve okay? I’ve worked on more campaigns than most people will have by the time they’re forty. I’m telling you, this is the one.” Stephen is a junior campaign manager for Governor Mike Morris (George Clooney), a presidential candidate competing against a Senator, Ted Pullman. Between Stephen and Morris is Paul (Philip Seymour Hoffman), Stephen’s superior and senior campaign manager. Stephen has just written a draft that Governor Mike Morris feels urged to accept. While he rides high on that, a call comes from Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti), a rival campaign manager diametrically opposite Paul, who invites him to a political tryst and gets the ball rolling.
Stephen meets with him out of an emotional need to feel self-secure and maybe even with the intent of revamping his political career. Tom Duffy praises himself for being jaded, cynical and having the ability to turn things to his advantage. Paul, on the other hand believes that loyalty is the only currency you can count on in politics. Human errors are made but there are heavy prices to pay. Something momentous is going to happen. Bring in press reporter Ida, a scoop-hungry fiend that will pounce on anyone for it and you await the spawn of an irreparable situation.
The acting is first-rate. Ryan Gosling is brilliant, as always. He gets Stephen Myers to traverse a complete arc. He remains the wide-eyed naiveté when he believes in the cause but by the end, those same eyes resign into cynicism on a hardened face. Although I personally prefer he get nominated for Drive, this is the movie I see him getting an Oscar nomination for. And here I was thinking that this was going to be another star role like in Crazy Stupid Love. The best line of the movie is uttered by Gosling to Giamatti “This is my life you’re talking about.” That’s when you begin to understand the gravity of this ugly game. Clooney’s handling of Mike Morris’ character is ingenious. For the most part, you see Mike Morris’ representative, waving from a distance at you. It is only when he's cornered that you see the real Morris.
The Ides of March works on multiple levels. On the surface, it works as a political thriller. On a deeper level, it works as a coming-of-age movie about the loss of innocence. Even deeper, it questions the basics of humanity and the existence of morality. Clooney springs surprises, one after the other, from time to time. You think you know the characters, but you don’t. The screenplay is tight, quick-paced and surprisingly compelling, and its dialogue, clever.
The all star cast works wonders. Shot mostly in close-ups enable us to focus entirely on the faces and the conversations they have with each other thus letting us entail on who is saying what and to whom. Because, after all this is politics. Clooney might not be nominated for best director but Ides is definitely a lock for Best Picture.
The fact that this absolute mess of a situation fails to hit the stands leaves a stronger message; that these close-call situations happen all the time and a few exchanges of favours keep them from erupting.