It's no secret, 2011 was a dismal year for Hollywood. The movie machine is running out of ideas, David Lynch is focusing on music, budgets are being screwed tight and we're getting a spill of bankable franchise sequels and unnecessary adapatations. Although one actor seems to have risen out of the ashes...
No, not Joaquin Phoenix... he hasn't done a film since 2008, we're talking about Ryan Gosling! He's had a fantastic year... The Ides of March, Drive and Crazy, Stupid, Love. Let's just say it - he's had a great decade, whether it was The Notebook, The United States of Leland, Stay, Half Nelson, Fracture, Blue Valentine or Lars and the Real Girl.
Sure, he's another Mickey Mouse Club graduate like Justin Timberlake, but that little "talent agency" has churned out some pretty stern stuff over the years. Now firmly entrenched in Hollywood, the golden goose, feathers firmly planted in cap... stars in George Clooney's latest movie, The Ides of March.
It's an adaptation of the stage play Farragut North, the new title The Ides of March is best known as the day Julius Caesar was stabbed in the back 23 times by a group of conspirators led by Brutus. He died, but the assassination isn't the key here... it's the back-stabbing politics. In 1992, Bill Clinton allowed a film crew to do a fly-on-the-wall documentary piece on the group that facilitated his presidential campaign. The War Room focused on two spin doctors and has had a strong influence on campaigning and subsequently political dramas like The Ides of March ever since.
The Ides of March comes across like a blend of The War Room and corporate thriller Michael Clayton, which starred George Clooney. The political backroom meddling and spin doctoring becomes the increasingly hostile environment, Stephen Meyers (Gosling) finds himself in. The speech writing, image consultancy, debates and statistics are where the political game is supposedly won and lost, but Meyers discovers just how muddy his ideals have become when he is embroiled in a scandal that could destroy the campaign and his career.
This literally has George Clooney's name all over it. Clooney co-wrote the adaptation, directed and starred in the drama as promising electoral candidate Mike Morris. Clooney is usually a leading man and supports Gosling, along with an award-winning ensemble of Hollywood stalwarts including: Paul Giamatti, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Marisa Tomei and Evan Rachel Wood. They're all in fighting form, making it a terrific team effort, giving Gosling a chance to showcase his talent and bounce off them like a star-spangled pinball.
The Ides of March is the proving ground for morality and loyalty, a high stakes political drama that parallels itself with the tempo and machinations of State of Play. Clooney has delivered a strong cast in a timely political drama with smooth storytelling and direction, making Gosling's journey a reflective character study, one in which our opinion of him changes from start to finish.
This drama follows the arc of most political thrillers and doesn't really offer anything new to the genre. The Ides of March is a solid film, both entertaining and thought-provoking as the ideals of a young campaigner fighting for justice crash to the ground. We're invited on a fascinating behind-the-scenes tour of what it takes to out-muscle another candidate and win on game play rather than on principle.
The bottom line: Engaging.