The Ides Of March (15)

Starring: Ryan Gosling, George Clooney, Evan Rachel Wood
Click to follow

"There's only one thing I value in this world. That's loyalty. Without it, you're nothing," campaign manager Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman) exclaims midway through George Clooney's classy political thriller.

These words ring very hollow indeed. Loyalty is the one quality that no one here (apart from Zara) possesses. The Ides of March takes a very cynical view of US politics. This is a world that Clooney knows from the inside – and it doesn't look pretty at all. Ryan Gosling is the slick, well-intentioned junior campaign manager for clean-cut, latter-day JFK-type Mike Morris (Clooney). His integrity is intact... but then comes the affair with the intern (Evan Rachel Wood), the revelations about his boss's Clintonian sex life and the goading of the press. Worst of all, his Mephistophelian rival Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti, in another scene-stealing character turn) plays on his vanity.

The Ides of March self-consciously evokes the great political thrillers of the 1970s. The disappointment is that it isn't really very political. The real focus is on human nature, not ideology. Clooney isn't taking on The Tea Party or excoriating the Bush-era White House. Instead, he's telling us that politics brings out the venality in everyone – and that is something we already know.