Friday, 25 November 2011

The Ides of March

This film title gives an appropriate nod to intrigue and betrayal. Set in the world of the American Democratic Party primaries where candidates contest the party nomination to become the Presidential candidate, it is filled with mind games, crossing and double - even triple crossing and loyalty that goes punished and also unrecognised. It shows politics to be a messy and brutal game. I am happy to leave it to those who are not afraid to sully their hands. The film even ends with words like 'integrity' and 'honesty' filling the air as Steve (Ryan Gosling) seems paralysed as he faces the choice of collusion or whistle-blowing.

This is the second Ryan Gosling film I've seen in two days and I must say the characterisations should have been streets apart - but let me also say his acting style makes Keanu Reeves look multi-dimensional! Directed by and starring George Clooney, with Leonardo DiCaprio as one of the producers, and with Philip Seymour Hoffman (Paul) and Paul Giamatti (Tom), this film was always going one that was well acted and well shot. I particularly liked the way scenes were often lit with pools of darkness and shafts of light to pick up and amplify the themes of honesty and deceit.

The story turns on Steve's decision not to disclose a meeting he had to his boss Paul. Or does it? The fact that the meeting led to nothing seems inconsequential but not to Paul when he summarily dumps Steve from the team. Steve is bewildered. This comes immediately after Steve has lectured an intern on the rules of political life and told her than when you screw up that's it - game over! Working out exactly whose integrity is compromised is difficult. It is as though hierarchies of integrity are established which play personal integrity off against institutional integrity. An interesting game.

For a brief softer moment the film explores the pain of the choice of whether or not to go through with an abortion to protect integrity. Whose integrity? The poor girl involved - Molly (Evan Rachel Wood) is seen wrestling with the moral and emotional cost of what the system is forcing her to do. A moment of indiscretion can lead to a life-time of guilt and regret. When the right course of action can seem so black and white to some whilst the person at the centre can only see grey is a powerful visualisation of the inner battle that abortion causes for the female (and usually the violated,) party. The fact that Molly wanted to climb the political tree as quickly as possibly is relevant but does it mitigate the choices she felt she faced and the way in which she resolved the conflict? I don't think so.

No-one comes out of this story with any credit - least of all Mike Morris (Clooney) the central political figure. What it does show is how spin doctors ply their trade, work the press and play the long game. As unsavoury as the subject matter is, this is nevertheless a well crafted, acted and delivered film. Well worth the investment of a couple of hours. I'll give it 7.5/10.

After three different cinemas in three days - I'm off on holiday so it may be a while before I post again!


Sharpcity said...

Haven't (yet) seen either this or Drive, however Blue Valentine and/or Half Nelson may both change your view of Gosling-both very good (if not always enjoyable) movies in my view. Happy New Year by the way!

Duncan Strathie said...

Thanks Sharpcity - I'm always open to revising my views. I have Blue Valentine on the shelf (I think). I'm sure he'll many more movies.

Happy New Year to yourself!

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