The Ides of March is to the USA what Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is to England.
Each country’s respective A teams line up to impress us with what they can respectively muster.
It’s a hopeless non contest. Aided mostly by the fact that the American material is richly plotted and deeply absorbing whereas the English mire themselves in dense sub plotting that renders the whole thing indigestible.
The Ides of March is outstanding. George Clooney, overlooked by many critics in this role because he is not always the centre of attention, plays Governor Mike Morris, a Democratic presidential canditate (complete with Obamaesque marketing materials) so well that you would unquestionably believe it if Clooney announced tomorrow that he was running for the real presidency. And hell, if Schwarzeneger can run California and Reagan was good enough for the White House; why not Clooney?
So let’s clear up one thing from the off. Clooney is immense. Clooney is one of America’s greatest ever movie actors and this is a subtly downplayed ‘best of George Clooney’ performance. Not only that; he directed it, wrote it and produced it. Is there nothing he can’t do?
Playing opposite King C is his heir apparent, Ryan Gosling. Gosling is the central fulcrum of this brilliant movie but he has a safety blanket of complete and utter class: Phillip Seymour Hoffman as his world weary boss, Paul Giammatti as his boss’ direct adversory, Marisa Tomei as a grubby Wall Street Hack, Evan Rachel Wood as the love interest (well, love would be stretching it. Let’s just call it lust.). All are superb, and it’s great to see Giamatti not playing a buffoon for a change.
But let’s focus on Gosling for a second. Gosling can not put a foot wrong right now. I fancy him for at least two Oscar nominations this year for this role and for Drive. He has so stormed the Hollywood A list as to make it his own (Clooney beware) and you see him only getting even better if he can keep his eye on great roles in truly great movies. In Ides of March he sweeps through the movie with ease, just as in Drive he starts out all likeable and decent but as it progresses his darker side emerges. I the case of Ides it all centres around his “affair” with 20 (or is it 19) year old intern Molly Stearn played seductively By Evan Rachel Wood.
It seems that interns are both forbidden fruit and fair game in equal measure (Monica Lewinsky anybody?). Her sleeping with Gosling (who plays Morris’ deputy campaign manager Stephen Myers) sets of a chain of events that it would be unfair of me to reveal. Suffice it to say the last half hour has more twists and turns than a slinky on a spiral staircase. It’s gripping.
This is a very fine piece of modern American cinema, the fact that is adapted from the stage makes it well crafted and honed to perfection. Expect serious rewards in the Ides of February in the Kodak Theatre.