“Ides of March” has standouts, but takes few risks

Historically, the Ides of March refers to March 15, 44 B.C. when Roman emperor Julius Caesar was stabbed to death in the Roman Senate by a group of conspirators led by friend and ally Marcus Brutus. William Shakespeare recounted the event in the play “Julius Caesar,” in which the famous line “Et tu, Brute?” is uttered. George Clooney’s fourth directorial endeavour, The Ides of March, has Shakespearean overtones, but is nowhere near as striking or compelling as anything by the Bard.

Centering on Stephen Myers, (Ryan Gosling) the Junior Campaign Manager for Gov. Mike Morris’ (Clooney) presidential campaign, the story follows the battle for Ohio’s vote in the Democratic primaries. This is a movie about belief and loyalty and, for Myers, Morris is the solution to the nation’s political and economic problems. However, the seemingly innocent Myers is quickly given a crash course in dirty politics when he not only discovers that Morris has been carrying on an inappropriate relationship with a campaign intern, making an offer to work for Morris’ competition by rival campaign manager Paul Zara (Paul Giamatti) look all the more appealing.

The Ides of March is a fast-paced, political thriller that ends just when it’s beginning and offers up paramount performances, but the twists and turns are highly contrived and completely predictable. There’s little risk taken with the screenplay, credited to Clooney, Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon (whose play, Farragut North, is the film’s basis), and, although this is a film about a presidential campaign, Clooney slipped his personal beliefs into the movie too many times. I never actually felt like I was watching the character of Gov. Mike Morris, just Clooney himself. That essentially leads to the movie’s downfall.

This is a movie that should have been strictly about politics, not policy. Despite his prior experience in movies like “Good Night and Good Luck”, Clooney’s direction feels primitive. He constructs a dozen interesting scenes but fails to tie them together in a cohesive narrative, proving that although his intentions were and have always been sincere, he remains an actor. Gosling is certainly not Oscar-worthy, but, for the most part, carries the film on his shoulders. His is a steadfast and balanced performance, supported by the always wonderful Paul Giamatti and Philip Seymour Hoffman, who, unfortunately, are not often cast in leading roles, a mistake that Hollywood has made a few too many times.

In the end, The Ides of March is the kind of movie that was made with the intention of raising tough questions. The truth of the matter is that people are so used to seeing politicians cast in a negative light that the characters and situations Clooney has presented seem routine—they’re all too familiar.

Andrew Saladino is a freshman film-television-digital media major from Southlake.