2011 IN REVIEW: 'The Ides of March'

Photo: Very Aware

The Ides of March is purely a showcase in acting and storytelling. It doesn't shine any relevatory light on political corruption, nor does it try to speak to any greater truths about politics. We know where it's going, and we have a sense of how it's going to get there. But while the film may fall short of expectations as far as ambition goes, it never fails to captivate.

The script, co-written by George Clooney and Grant Heslov, is tight, gripping, and at times, pretty challenging; it's brought to life by a stellar ensemble cast (Clooney, Gosling, P.S. Hoffman, Giamatti, Tomei) and also Clooney's disciplined, aesthetically-sound directorial touch. But what's most impressive about Ides isn't any singular performance (they're all pretty great, though) or key scenes, or moments of catharsis; it's the manner in which the whole story unfolds -- the crescendo of corrupt political dealings that eventually desensitizes and dehumanizes a young, ethical, hard-working, un-tainted political advisor.

We, as the audience, are able to identify with the protagonist (Gosling) because our foreignness with the story-at-hand runs parallel with his own naivety. As the curtain slowly opens, revealing the transparency of all the key players, it truly becomes a test of moral fiber -- one that's experienced by both the protagonist and the viewing audience. The tone becomes overtly bitter and cynical as act three rolls around, because, as we learn, that's just the nature of the beast; you can't win if you don't play the game.

Again, this film doesn't really aim to enlighten. It's core audience is sophisticated enough to suspect -- or at least have been pre-disposed to -- many of the indictments presented here, but yet, is it entertaining? Check. Absorbing? Check. Hard-hitting? Check. At the end of the day, The Ides of March  doesn't really expose anything about ourselves or our country that hasn't already been presented; it'll have to settle for being a maturely crafted, wholly engaging, high-end, studio-churned political drama. It's intelligent and riveting enough to warrant serious thought, or at the very least, repeat viewings -- and for that, it's one of the better mainstream films of 2011.

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