The Ides of March

(R) ★★★☆☆

In this political suspense film, Ryan Gosling is a spokesman for a Democratic governor (George Clooney, who also directs) seeking the nomination for president. Philip Seymour Hoffman plays the campaign’s manager; Paul Giamatti plays his counterpart. Both covet the support of a sphinx-like senator played masterfully by Jeffrey Wright. Political skulduggery unfolds. The invented plot twists tax the abilities of Gosling, but the rest of the cast and the atmosphere dazzle.

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If the flaws in the American character are reflected in the politicians they vote for, then The Ides of March provides not only food for thought, but the raw material for election-year nightmares. This behind-the-scenes political blowtorch hits the screen like the fire from a high-tech Uzi and forces both the right and left sides of a polarized country to re-think the electoral process. A cynical, polished and deeply disturbing look at the kind of camera-ready liberal dreamboy who gets elected in 60-second soundbites, it is one of the most important films of the year.