There are two ways to look at Ides of March before those closing credits begin their spree of thanks. A slow, methodical zoom on Ryan Gosling leaves doubt during a live TV interview, either insinuating that background political corruption games have ruined him, or he’s standing firm behind his candidate for personal reasons.
Ides gets away with its openly framed ending because of its character, sternly focused and built through a slow cooking narrative that begins to burn itself right at the hour mark. What seemed so innocent, so clear, and so straightforward outside of minimal bickering turns a corner, leading to dead bodies, suicides, and mental aggression.
Maybe Ides plays it up a little to heavily, meetings inside dark corridors where people are silhouettes straining some of the credibility. Private meeting spots or not, they’re only concerned about people hearing them, not seeing their faces in the back of a closed diner. We’ll dock cinematopgrapher Phedon Papamichael for that one, the Greek-born lens expert probably having the same outsider view of American politics as most foreigners. (He did work on W. after all.)
Getting down to it though, it’s not like there isn’t reason to believe it’s all seedy, under the table, and even blatantly manipulative… that’s because politics are. Ides isn’t a film to skirt these issues, but instead push them out into the mainstream where truth, fiction, and reality begin to blend. Playwright -and partial screen writer- Beau Willimon worked campaigns, inserting his own blend of actual people and insider dealings, making events here eerily resonate inside the modern political process.
Stellar leads, from the headlining George Clooney and Ryan Gosling to the secondary (but no less crucial) Paul Giamatti, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Evan Rachel Wood, and Marisa Tomei jam this piece with credentials, legitimacy, and an earnest authenticity. Tension is palpable, even when the cinematography is getting in the way, the camera tuned in close to allow reactions and words to weight down the script in dramatic, unseen dealings.
Everything here is a game, a play on words, a manipulative deal, or a planned process. Nothing happens by accident, requiring a firm focus from the audience to piece together who is being worked over. In this case, it’s just about everybody, and in the end, they all pay for it.
Given a fantastic color graded veneer, rich-looking film stock, and premiere Blu-ray encode, Ides of March is live action paradise in HD. Any concerns over Sony’s mistreatment of Moneyball and a possible trend can be put to rest, at least for now. Ides pushes facial detail into stratospheric levels, every close-up rippling with premiere texture, clarity, and vividness.
As the camera pulls back, there’s nothing here that signals warning signs. High fidelity detail strikes firmly even in medium shots, and exteriors are dripping with the utmost sharpness. Trees, buildings, and other landscapes are stunning to look at. Focus is in always in check, reaching its peak from the first frames and sticking with it for the entirety. This is an AVC encode in it for the long haul.
Black levels have their moments where they forget to manage shadow detail, mostly contained to a nighttime interior or two. Otherwise, their hold on dimensionality is superlative, producing the depth and image intensity required of the content. Contrast holds with a great layer of brightness that never sees a need to run rampant or over do itself.
Flesh tones are pure even as Ides wanders a bit with its palette. There’s a commitment to making the red and blues stand out (America!), leaving other colors pale. Exteriors have a naturalist washed out appearance, never enough to render primaries voided or lost. There’s always a sense of density and weight.
Speaking with dominating candor -or so it seems- sound design here will take on the dialogue with a focus on environment. Speeches in front of crowds will spread the soundfield wide, while those closed off back-and-forth debates have a tightness and focus that offers the necessary intensity.
There’s not much here that has to impress beyond that, the spacious dialogue appreciated as it opens things up. Rallies and such will offer cheering crowds plopped squarely in the rears, and chaotic reporters swarming for a story will find their place in the right channel. Subtle, and mixed perfectly.
George Clooney and writer Grant Heslov speak on their work via wide-ranging commentary track, leading into a series of brief featurettes to fill in the blanks. Developing the Campaign presents the transitional process from the play to the screen, while Believe: George Clooney might as well be considered a flagrant promotion for the director/actor/producer.
On the Campaign is more heavy praise, this for the rest of the cast. What Does a Political Consultant Do? interviews those involved in the sometimes sketchy profession. It’s all closing in on around 30-minutes worth of content total. Trailers and BD-Live access stick around too.
Note: Screen caps contain inaccurate timestamps. Technical difficulties and all that it brings with it.