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The Ides of March reveals ugly side of human nature

Even for the apolitical movie-goer, The Ides of March — directed by George Clooney and starring Clooney, Ryan Gosling, and Evan Rachel Wood — is a political thriller that entertains. With an ill-boding title referencing Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, it is a suspenseful drama full of mind games and manipulation. Every character’s purpose is to twist another’s, and complicated relationships lead to morally compromising situations. Fast-paced and intense, the movie reflects one simple, universal opinion: Politics is dirty.

The Ides of March follows the ambitious Stephen Myers (Ryan Gosling) as a major player on the campaign staff for Democrat Mike Morris (George Clooney), governor of Pennsylvania. He must secure Morris’ win in the Ohio primary by gaining the crucial support of a North Carolina Senator (Jeffrey Wright). In the process, he struggles to evade the critical New York Times journalist Ida Horowicz (Marisa Tomei), who aggressively pursues a good story to break, often at the Democrats’ expense.

Myers finds a formidable rival in the opposing Democrat’s campaign manager, Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti), a seasoned and scheming manager who tests Myers’ noble convictions and loyalty. Duffy attempts to lure Myers to his side of the campaign by presenting two options: remain on the front line of a losing candidate and work in a consulting firm, or switch to the winner’s team and spend the next four years in the White House.

Overall, the film succeeds at highlighting the ugly faces of human nature — hypocrisy, an “every man for himself” mentality, and forbidden desires — but is not completely devoid of flaws. For example, some audience members will have a hard time believing Wood, who is supposed to be a flirtatious 20-year-old intern, is significantly younger than Gosling when she looks at least 25. This is important because her age is a significant source of conflict in the film. There is room to sympathize with her character, however. She is a young, hopeful college student wanting to get her foot in the door of a prestigious organization to secure a future in an occupation she loves. With Myers, the audience can feel what it’s like to be a qualified employee eager to jump at chances for promotion.

Politically aware audience members may have strong opinions about the ideas presented by the presidential candidates, including abortion, gay marriage, and religion. For others, controversy is overshadowed by powerful acting and an effective score (courtesy of Alexander Desplat). In the end, The Ides of March can be applauded for remaining interesting from beginning to end and leaving no character untarnished, even the heroes we root for. By successfully telling a good loss of innocence story, Clooney achieves an outstanding cinematic experience.