Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Ides Of March

I think Alfred Hitchcock would be bitterly disappointed.  In this age of high tech action flicks and run-of-the-mill romantic comedies, this era of stylized super heroes and flashy CGI, Hollywood seems to have forgotten how to make a good suspense thriller.  Luckily, George Clooney is single handily trying to bring them back.

The suspense thriller was once my favorite genre of film.  I don’t know why they have faded from popularity but I suspect it is because we, as a society, thirst for constant, instant satisfaction.  Explosions, blood, gore, canned, tired, predictable laughs, and computer generated action fill our screens, keeping our flittering attentions from straying into intelligent thought.  I think our society has produced a generation of audiences that won’t sit still long enough to develop characters and storylines at a less than break neck speed.  The quality of movies being churned out by Hollywood reflects this societal decline.

Ides of March is a taunt and intense film that moves along at a steady pace.  Nothing is blown up and no blood is spilled yet my heart was pounding and I found myself leaning forward in my chair.  The characters are fleshed out and the plot twists slowly toward the key revelations.  In short, it was a good, old fashioned suspense thriller smartly written and filmed.  It’s a story of idealism, innocence, loyalty, and betrayal – all of the classic elements. 

The story centers on a veteran campaign manager Stephen Myers, who is convinced that he is finally working for the perfect candidate.  In a world of jaded disappointments, Myers has secretly maintained his idealism, his belief that there was always a politician out there who was truly good and who could truly make a difference.  The story follows the campaign for a Democratic Presidential candidate for a week leading into a big, important primary.  The upstanding candidate seems like a dream come true – a man who speaks the utter truth, lives with true integrity, and refuses to make political deals to gain votes.  Of course, as we all know, no such person exists.  Of course, our young hero has to learn the hard way.

The cast is filled with some of my favorite and most talented actors Hollywood has to offer.  Ryan Gosling is quickly working is way up the chain of talented actors who continue to hone their craft.  He holds his own with the terrific veteran supporting cast.  George Clooney, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti , and Marisa Tomei all give believable and solid performances.  Evan Rachel Wood was subtle and spectacular and the same time.  A decade ago, Wood was a talented child actress in an underappreciated series called Once and Again.  She has grown up but has not lost her talent.  I would love to see her in more meaty roles like this one.

Director/co-writer/actor George Clooney does a brilliant job keeping the suspense moving with plot twists and turns.  His use of music to set the tone was not false or heavy- handed like a M. Night Shyamalan likes to do.  It was subtle and terse, really setting the mood.  Clooney has really become the champion of the suspense thriller with similar character and plot driver films like Michael Clayton and The American.  Good for him!  Anything to keep him from making anymore silly comedies is always a plus. 

I was glad this film was so good.  It continued a trend of really good movies that have been released in the past three months.  It gives me hope that Hollywood is trying to improve its product.  I would love to see the genre of suspense thriller return to more prominence in the theaters.  I think it displayed true skill to make such a movie and I think the skillfully crafted films we see, the better the movie going experience will be.

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