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Monday, April 2, 2012

"The Ides of March", the politics of betrayal

The Ides of March

Loyalty and betrayal are always relevant topics, whether we are talking about personal relations, work, or, like "The Ides of March", about politics. Being such a delicate subject for a film focused on a democrat's primary elections, the risk of resulting forced, or a caricaturisation, or a preachy and unwanted moral lesson, was obvious, but George Clooney and his top-notch cast achieve what seemed almost impossible due the nature (and development) of the film: leaving us wondering about the characters while our bowels are still shaking.

Because "The Ides of March" is bleak, even to the point of depression. It doesn't talk about material corruption, something that's so frequent around us that for example in Spain that our government has decided to concede an amnesty (sorry for the side note, but this is so shameful I will need to vent it from time to time). No, its much worse. Its about human condition and its corruption, its degradation. In that sense, the film is not just a political thriller-drama (as director, Clooney uses wisely both styles/tones). It's about people taking chances, some of them based in their aspirations and some even in their "ideals", and how these decisions turn into dramatic consequences, affecting others, and forcing the adoption of new measures. Come hell or high water? That's the dilemma that the movie poses, and Clooney's message, although somewhat open, is discouraging for humans.

As Clooney did with the brilliant "Good Night, and Good Luck", he directs, co-writes (again with Grant Heslov plus Beau Willimon, author of the play "Farragut North" in which the film is based) and acts. He excels in the three areas, showing a firm pulse in what regards to style, close to the 70s (but the good, meaningful seventies, recalling Sidney Lumet's films) and aplomb on the script, with a rewarding care on the actors.

And of course, we need to talk about the cast. Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ryan Gosling and Paul Giamatti together, plus Clooney? How can someone do wrong with such a trio of amazing actors? The scenes between Gosling and Giamatti are superb, and the same can be said about where Gosling and Hoffman share the screen. Unfortunately, there aren't "duels" between Hoffman and Giamatti (they only share one scene). I have goosebumps just thinking of that possibility. Evan Rachel Wood, Marisa Tomei and the aforementioned are equally excellent in their secondary roles. Side note: the reasons why Gosling is among the best actors I have seen in decades can be clearly found in "The Ides of March" (or "Blue Valentine"), not in "Drive".  

I do believe "The Ides of March" could have even been better, though. The story itself , the thriller that "explodes" and justifies the superficial development of the film is a bit questionable, allowing Clooney the "cat and mouse" games that, in my opinion, are a bit too spectacular, drifting from 0 to 100% too fast. But I do understand that what lies behind of these "games" are just for the sake of showing human behaviours when they are put into so much pressure and tension, when their career and ideals are confronted, when anger shows, when they fear loosing, and when their (our too) miseries are revealed. "The Ides of March" shows, that politicians (Republicans and Democrats, both get their share), journalists (Clooney hits hard again here, so deservedly) can be as mean as human. All our doubts, complexities, insecurities, ambitions and miseries are reflected on Gosling's face at the unforgettable final scene of the film. Yes, we can (be like that).

SCORE: 7,5/10

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