The Ides of March most reminds me of the film The Best Man, itself like Ides based on a play. Both stories are about betrayal and treachery behind the scenes of a political campaign. Frank Capra was originally going to direct The Best Man but had a falling out with the play’s author Gore Vidal over the characters being atheists. Capra writes in his autobiography “Now this gay blade wants to use my next film as a brochure for his anti-religious vanities. So I bowed out.”

There are marked differences to be sure as Ides treads on sexual misconduct as its main plot twist whereas the superior Best Man was all about dirty dealing in smoke filled rooms. As Ryan Gosling, front and center all throughout Ides of March states (and I paraphrase), today a President can start an illegal war, bail out profiteers but he can’t fuck the intern. Earlier in Ides the action revolves around the rivalry between the two architects of a Democratic candidate’s Presidential campaign. As played by Gosling and Philip Seymour Hoffman it provides the meat of Ides of March and goes a long way in making the movie feel like a must-see politically themed kind of flick. Golsing in particular is on a run, what with this, Drive and Crazy. Stupid. Love. Gosling has played roles to perfection in a rom-com, a tough assed art film, and now a social allegory where his snake eyes are deadly and cold and his actions are definitely in the “Et tu Brute?” realm.

George Clooney plays the candidate and directs. Clooney co-wrote the film with Grant Heslov (People say they don’t know Heslov but he was the jet riding terrorist Faisil in True Lies.), adapting from Beau Willimon’s play Farragut North. There’s a bunch of other performances of note, mainly with characters playing one specific type of person: Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood, Paul Giamatti, Jeffrey Wright, there are a few others.

The Ides of March has a dark tone that never wavers, and production values are solid. Clooney’s not quite an atheist as his character tells America in a speech: “I’m not Christian or Muslim, I believe in the constitution of the United States.” Ides of March doesn’t cater to everybody, but those who like ideas and idealistic dialogue will quite enjoy.

— Michael Bergeron