Watch: The Ides of March

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Article Reviews
The Ides of March
Directed by George Clooney (Columbia Pictures, 2011)

As the title suggests, George Clooney’s cynical drama about a presidential campaign is a tale of loyalties and betrayals, both personal and political, and of the hollow victories achieved through these various treasons.

In the days and weeks leading up to the Democratic primary in Ohio, each of the three central characters espouses his personal and public allegiance to the ideals of his campaign. Governor Mike Morris (Clooney) asserts his commitment to running a clean campaign and rejects any suggestion that he compromise his core values to win the White House. His campaign manager Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman) claims that personal loyalty to his boss and colleagues is the only thing that matters to him. And the seasoned press secretary Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling) announces that he has found a candidate and campaign he believes in with a nearly religious fervor.

But simmering beneath these idealistic commitments are passions and ambitions that undo these powerful characters. When Meyers receives a flattering offer from a rival campaign, his ego gets the better of him momentarily. Perhaps there is one thing Meyers wants more than to install Governor Morris in the White House. And when Zara discovers this mistake, his own commitment to loyalty and the campaign’s success is undermined by a fit of self-righteous rage. In the wake of these betrayals Meyers leverages a misstep by Morris, saving his career—and perhaps the campaign—by another betrayal that takes place in the bowels of a shadowy building.

This string of deception uncovers a darker devotion in nearly every character in this Greek tragedy, a naked loyalty to the self and to ambitions that trump every sort of friendship. Perhaps we are not who we say we are; we are really what we want.

This article appeared in the February 2012 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 77, No. 2, page 58-59.)