It's politics. How many times do we say that in our work lives or in reference to an organization with which we are involved?

That's simply what this film is about. In this case, though, "The Ides of March" refers to big-time politics and the machinations behind them. Not only does the title allude to the famous quote in Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar," but also to March 15, the date in the movie on which fictional Ohio Gov. Mike Morris (George Clooney) hopes to become the Democratic presidential nominee.

You'll watch the political wheels spin - and sometimes grate against each other - as the campaign heats up. Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is Morris' savvy campaign manager, part of the team along with strategist Stephen Myers (Ryan Gosling). Stephen is a true believer: He knows in his heart that Morris is a good man and the perfect candidate to lead the country. Stephen is loyal not only to his party but also to Morris himself. The story unfolds from Stephen's viewpoint.

Paul Giamatti plays Tom Duffy, a publicist for Morris' opponent. He talks Stephen into having a brief conversation, a conversation which, if leaked to the media, could become a threat in and of itself.

Meanwhile, Stephen catches the eye of a pretty intern (Evan Rachel Wood), who could threaten his job and harbors some secrets that could smear the entire campaign. And Marisa Tomei, as a reporter who's constantly sniffing around both camps, provides a journalistic threat that seems to loom everywhere.

Action fans need to look elsewhere for entertainment. This is pure conversation-driven drama, with meetings and brief encounters providing the character development and the tension that continues to build as alliances and betrayals are revealed.

Clooney also directed the movie and helped write the screenplay. Not surprisingly, the dialogue is smart and the helmsmanship is very good: For example, Clooney builds tension by showing us a vehicle - simply a vehicle - in which a conversation occurs. We know the end result of the conversation, but we don't need to even see the characters to guess what's going on inside.

A couple of times, I didn't buy into the situations involving the intern. Otherwise this is, sadly, a realistic tale about the hard-nosed game of politics and how it changes the lives, and spirits, of those involved.


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