THE IDES OF MARCH. Genuinely good political thriller

Ryan Gosling, fresh from removing a bloodied jacket adorned with a scorpion, throws a designer blazer over his shoulders.

Filip Jalowski

10 March 2024

THE IDES OF MARCH. Genuinely good political thriller

After adding a collared shirt, a perfectly tied tie, and other similar accessories to his ensemble, the romantically murderous driver transforms into a political PR specialist. Playing his role as both teacher and sole friend in the tough world of advertising is the always excellent Philip Seymour Hoffman. The duo’s task is to secure the presidential nomination for Governor Mike Morris, played by the elegant and directorial George Clooney.

Alongside Paul Giamatti, Marisa Tomei, and Evan Rachel Wood, perhaps only Tommy Wiseau could spoil the potential of such a cast. Essentially, nothing can go wrong here. Oscar nominations must flow because the subject matter is important to Americans (presidential elections), and the faces are tried and true. And ultimately, nothing really goes awry; the formula works. The Ides of March is a good film, but nothing more.

The Ides of March

The film’s screenplay resembles a chessboard where only pawns and royal figures are in play. On one side, we have young interns who spend their days in campaign offices doing the most tedious tasks—just a bunch of anonymous ties and appropriately dressed ladies for the occasion. Maneuvering among the pawns are players who possess information or power (or both). If one of them stumbles, it means victory for another. Relationships are strained to the breaking point because everyone knows that in the slippery ground of politics, stumbling is easy. It’s made even easier because many extend a friendly hand only to maliciously trip others at the same moment.

The Ides of March George Clooney

Gosling, Hoffman, and Clooney are the leaders of the white side of the chessboard. Paul Giamatti leads the black pawns from Senator Pullman’s camp (almost absent is Michael Mantell). Finally, the creators bend the rules slightly by introducing players who are difficult to categorize unequivocally. A young intern (Evan Rachel Wood) and Senator Thompson (Jeffrey Wright) certainly don’t know as much as their predecessors, but even if they are pawns, they are extremely difficult to capture. Moreover, it quickly becomes apparent that in political maneuvering, such units can determine the outcome. Commanders must only observe and adapt to the situations at hand.

The Ides of March Philip Seymour Hoffman

The Ides of March doesn’t tell us anything new beyond the fact that in high politics, virtually anything can determine the outcome. Even the smallest stumble by a candidate, an inadvertently spoken word, or a handshake at the wrong time with the wrong person can be the nail in the electoral coffin. The whole film aims to remind us of what has long been known—that this chessboard game, where white and black pawns stand, is merely a spectacle. In reality, there are no different colors; everyone is equally black and equally white. Only who reaches the designated point/goal first matters.

THE IDES OF MARCH Ryan Gosling Max Minghella

From a purely scriptural perspective, The Ides of March is nothing more than a parable about the immoral politics that corrupt honest and idealistic individuals. It’s, let’s not kid ourselves, somewhat banal. However, there’s the other side of the coin. Firstly, the parable is constructed in such a way that despite the scriptural obviousness, the film maintains tension. The viewer stops focusing on the moralizing tone of the whole and instead concentrates on the personal struggles of the characters. So, there’s this pleasant feeling akin to reading classic detective stories—we focus not on the overall (sure, the detective will eventually find the killer, so the end is entirely predictable), but on the details (we’re interested in how we get to the known end). Secondly, The Ides of March is not directed by Tommy Wiseau, and as a result, the cast doesn’t disappoint in the slightest. While Gosling’s subtle smile may still conjure up images of leather gloves firmly grasping a steering wheel, it’s hard to formulate any criticism based on that. The acting prowess is observed without euphoric attacks but with pleasure.

IDES OF MARCH Ryan Gosling Evan Rachel Wood

And it’s precisely this pleasure without euphoria that best describes the emotions evoked by The Ides of March. As I wrote in the introduction, it’s genuinely a good film that efficiently and professionally delivers a story that everyone has already acquainted themselves with before the screening. Clooney doesn’t uncover America, but he certainly doesn’t ridicule what’s already been uncovered. The film is definitely worth watching, but not necessarily worth remembering.