January 12, 2012

The Ides of March (USA 2011)

A film is not the sum of its elements. "The Ides of March" has a sharp script, great actors and is quite entertaining. However, it is still "only" a good movie, not a great one. The primary reason for this is that George Clooney's film about the US pre-elections does not really reveal anything new. Or did you not know before that politicians tend to have a weakness for pretty interns, young career types get it all while the "good" guys finish last? And most of us already sensed that politics is a dirty business...

Nevertheless "The Ides of March"is one of the better American films of recent times. It is a captivating behind-the-scenes look on politics. George Clooney, himself supporter of the Democratic party and president Obama, again shows his keen sense for the subject matter after "Good Night, and Good Luck". And it is remarkably how he manages his double identity between smiling movie star and deadly serious filmmaker without an image loss in either one of his personas.

As a director he may not be an artist but a solid craftsman but his experience as an actor certainly helps with the casting of his fellow actors. And "The Ides of March" is mostly an actor's film which reunites the most talented American actors of different generations (Evan Rachel Wood, Max Minghella, Ryan Gosling, Marisa Tomei, Paul Giamatti, Philipp Seymour Hoffman). But contrary to Hollywood's common practice they have been cast here not just because of their famous names and talent but because they actually fit for their respective roles. And Clooney himself is so convincing as the candidate that some viewers might wish that he would run for office in reality. He probably would not do much worse than his former colleague Arnold Schwarzenegger.

"The Ides of March" also poses an interesting question: is it even possible to stay true to one's ideals in the battlefield of politics? If one considers the cynical final image of the film, the answer seems to be "no".

Because of this pessimistic message nobody will accuse Clooney of campaigning for the Democrats or any other political party. But this clinical approach may be the reason why the authentic film lacks emotions. The same goes for the mise-en-scène which mostly sticks to Hollywood conventions.

Sort of a conservative film from a liberal director.


In no one we trust

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