BASED on the stage play Farragut North by Beau Willimon, who co-wrote the screenplay with George Clooney and Grant Heslov, The Ides Of March hits the campaign trail with high-flying Democrat presidential candidate Governor Mike Morris (Clooney), who has a knack for spouting the perfect sound bite with a winning smile.
Flanked by his ballsy campaign manager Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and brilliant press secretary Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling), Morris seems destined for the White House.
However, an ill-advised dalliance with seductive intern Molly Stearns (Evan Rachel Wood) leaves Morris’s reputation hanging by a gossamer thread as New York Times journalist Ida Horowicz (Marisa Tomei) and the other media vultures begin to circle.
Meanwhile, rival campaign manager Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti) looks for chinks in Morris’s armour, knowing full well that everything hinges on securing the endorsement of influential Senator Thompson (Jeffrey Wright).
The Ides Of March is a hugely-engrossing thriller that doesn’t get too bogged down in the political process, concentrating more on the abrasive personalities responsible for getting a well-groomed mouthpiece into the Senate and hopefully to Pennsylvania Avenue.
Clooney is charm personified and Hoffman and Giamatti are deliciously oily as rival puppet masters.
Once again it’s Gosling who delivers the stand-out performance, transforming from a wide-eyed strategist, convinced that Morris is the man to affect lasting change, into an emotionally-shattered husk.
The machinations of the final 20 minutes feel too neat and the dialogue doesn’t drip with enough bile, but Clooney’s film slickly and stylishly campaigns for our attention and largely gets our vote.