It is always hard to determine what is a political thriller.
There is always a twisting plot of intrigue and espionage, and conspiracy is always the core theme, but hey let’s face facts, that is the usual theme behind any thriller, political or otherwise.
What you usually want to see is the core mechanics behind the political wheel, what goes into the making the sausage.
Mainly, is the political world just as corrupt as we all believe?
The Ides of March, taking the name off the well versed phrased of assassination of Julius Caesar, looks into the mechaninations of the American political system, or more specifically how the campaign to be President can get dirty a lot quicker than you expect.
Idealistic Stephen Myers (Ryan Gosling) is one of the key men in the campaign strategy of Governor Mike Morris (George Clooney) in the Democratic primaries (for the un-informed, the race for each party to determine who will run for President in the general elections).
With only a few key endorsements nearly in their grasp, Myers believes they are close to taking the vote, before a meeting with rival Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti), a night with a staffer, and an ill-placed phone call begins to unravel everything.
Being used to being on the top, Myers sees how quickly everything can change in politics, and the ideals he once held so dear take a back seat, as he sees what he needs to do to win everything.
I have to admit, I made the rookie mistake going into this one, mainly getting my expectations high. Being a massive US politics buffs (both in real-life, and thanks to The West Wing, in any dramatised format), and a huge fan of what Clooney can do both in front and behind the camera (thanks to Good Night and Good Luck), I expected this to be one of my favourite films of 2011.
Unfortunately to having possibly unreachable expectations, The Ides of March did not seemingly reach what I was hoping walking in.
Maybe it’s because the suspense was not there, maybe it was because I expected an entire West Wing season in two hours, maybe it promised so much but failed to deliver, whatever the reason Ides of March came across as a bad debate.
That is not to say it is a bad film… just underwhelming. The performances from all littered from good but not memorable (with Ryan Gosling and George Clooney), to interesting but far too short (Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Marissa Tomei), making more characters utterly disposable.
As for the plot itself, it’s a shame that it is not as tightly written as Good Night, as it comes off at second rate. It’s main problem seems to stem from the set-up of the film, which uses way too much time setting up the atmosphere, characters and theme of wanting to win and loyalty way to much, making the first half of the film stretch out longer than you expect.
While the pace is not a problem to begin with, once the main event is unfolded it runs into a sprint, twisting and turning so quickly and have everything unfold at an amazing pace that it takes some time to process how quickly things turned around.
Of course there is nothing wrong with having a film that moves quickly, getting the audience lost in the twists and turns, like there is nothing wrong with having a film unfold at a casual pace, letting you slowly know the characters and general theme, but when they clash it makes the whole viewing of the film unsettling.
At the end, Ides of March just suffers from “a little bit more” syndrome, with most audience probably looking for more when the leave the theatre. It’s not that its a bad movie, or a horribly made one, it’s just that there are so many elements that could have worked in it, but when they were joined together, it did not come off as a satisfying final product.
Rating: 3 stars