The Ides of March (Blu-ray Review)

Ambition seduces and power corrupts in this look at politics from Academy Award nominated director George Clooney (Good Night, and Good Luck). Idealistic campaign worker Stephen Myers (Ryan Gosling) has sworn to give all for Governor Mike Morris (Clooney), a wild card presidential candidate whose groundbreaking ideas could change the political landscape. However, a brutal Ohio primary threatens to test Morris’s integrity. Stephen gets trapped in the down-and-dirty battle, discovering himself caught up in a scandal where the only path to survival is to play both sides.  The powerhouse cast includes Academy Award nominee Ryan Gosling (Best Actor, Half Nelson, 2006), Academy Award winner Philip Seymour Hoffman (Best Actor, Capote, 2005), Academy Award nominee Paul Giamatti (Best Supporting Actor, Cinderella Man, 2005), Academy Award winner George Clooney (Best Supporting Actor, Syriana, 2005), Academy Award winner Marisa Tomei (Best Supporting Actress, My Cousin Vinny, 1992), and Evan Rachel Wood (ThirteenAcross the Universe) in the story of a young, idealistic staffer who gets caught up in a political scandal during a presidential campaign.


The Ides of March is a movie about the modern day political age where the candidates may not live up to the packaged image they present to the public and their morals may not be as untainted as they would like us to believe. With the title of the movie referring to the March Presidential Primary that’s held in Ohio and of course referencing the elimination of Julius Ceasar by his underling, co-writer, actor, and director George Clooney sets the tone of the movie right away.  Watching the movie, it struck me that the movie seemed like an update to Michael Ritchie’s The Candidate that starred Robert Redford as the well-intentioned candidate who sacrificed his ideals to win.  For The Ides of March, it’s focused more on an adviser than the candidate, but both movies cover similar thematic territory.

George Clooney plays Pennsylvania Governor Mike Morris, a Democrat who’s trying to become the President of the United States.  Morris is ably supported by a crack political team that includes the veteran Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and his razor sharp protege Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling).  With Paul supplying the tactical strategies and Stephen maintaining image control, they are a tough team to beat.  That’s not to say that the other side is lacking since Morris’ Democratic opponent in the primary, Arkansas Governor Ted Pullman (Michael Mantell) has the equally good Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti) as his Campaign Manager.

Both campaign managers are wooing North Carolina Democratic Senator Franklin Thompson (Jeffrey Wright) since he alone can sway his 356 pledged Democratic convention delegates to either side, which depending on which way it went, would either guarantee a complete win for Morris or a much needed boost for Pullman.  While Pullman’s campaign is willing to bribe Thompson by offering him the position of Secretary of State for his delegates, Morris refuses to do that since it would compromise his beliefs too much since he knows that Thompson hates the United Nations and wouldn’t be a good fit there.

Stephen truly believes in what Morris stands for and he’s mocked by New York Times reporter Ida Horowicz (Marisa Tomei) who warns him “He’s a nice guy.  He will let you down sooner or later.”  Stephen soon finds himself being propositioned by a young campaign intern named Molly Stearns (Evan Rachel Wood) and he willingly allows himself to be seduced.  Molly isn’t the only one to try to seduce Stephen, since Duffy calls him directly to meet and once they do, he offers Stephen a job working for the Pullman campaign.  Stephen rejects the offer but doesn’t realize that he’s already walked into Duffy’s Machiavellian trap which will ensnare him later.  It won’t be too long before the Morris camp’s collective bad decisions and indiscretions not only threaten to derail the campaign but each of their jobs. Backed against the wall, every person will shed their public persona and reveal their true character which will end in a loss of idealism for some and compromised ideals for others.

After watching The Ides of March, you get the sense of George Clooney’s disappointment with politics as they are being practiced today.  He deftly gives us the surface level look at politics we are accustomed to seeing on our TV and then takes us behind the scenes of the process where we see the anything goes dirty war that we’ve always suspected but only occasionally seen.  These political operatives will do just about anything to win and he shows that even candidates with principles will throw them away if that’s what it takes to win.  It’s a cynical but sadly accurate look at our modern day politics, which continues with every election by both political parties.  Clooney does an excellent job as a director and especially as an actor whose role requires many different layers to be revealed.  He makes his character entirely believable as a candidate who in private may or may not be all that he seems, while maintaining a public profile of a charismatic politician that the media and audiences can’t resist.

The rest of the cast is also very good with Ryan Gosling showing a great deal of charm during his scenes with the equally talented Evan Rachel Wood as they flirt with each other.  Over the course of the movie, we watch Stephen’s beliefs and values slowly disappear and Gosling makes that descent apparent as Stephen retreats into himself and becomes little more than a political machine.  Both Philip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Giamatti are fantastic as they cynical political warriors who harbor no illusions on what it takes to win nor any hesitation cross any line to do so.  While this basic movie has been seen many different times in various ways, Clooney and his incredible cast make this better than it should be.  Clooney also wisely uses real talking heads from a variety of political shows that add another layer of authenticity to the movie.  The Ides of March is a slow burn movie that will depress you on the state of politics if you aren’t already.  This movie offers a clear eyed view of the entire political process and the people and candidates that wade through it and how each sells their soul in different ways in the end to achieve their goals.


The Ides of March’s 1080p (2.40:1) transfer is stunning with a cinematic and moody look that offers some impressive clarity and colors.  Fine detail is present in every shot and textures also look realistic and natural.  The film’s colors are also varied and the hues are vivid and pop off the screen.  There’s many low light scenes and Clooney uses light and darkness to emphasize the drama and it’s fortunate that the black levels are deep and solid which makes those scenes look fantastic.  Flesh tones are natural looking and consistent throughout the movie and I didn’t notice any kind of print damage or defects on this transfer at all.  Sony has delivered a superlative transfer for this movie!


The Ides of March’s DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is also very good but being a dialogue driven movie, it doesn’t get the chance to really call attention to itself.  Dialogue is clear and razor sharp from the front channels while the rear channels offer atmosphere and ambiance.  This mix’s strength is achieved with it’s subtle effects that add a lot of immersion for the viewer.  Whether it’s doing a sound-check in an empty auditorium or a public debate with a crowd, it all sounds dead on accurate and makes it seem as if you are there.  This is an excellent mix that transcends the usual effort that’s done for this kind of a movie.

Special Features  

This Blu-ray offers a decent amount of extras the cover the basics of the making of the movie.  I would have liked to have had more in depth extras but I’ll take what I can get especially when they are in high definition.

  • Audio Commentary – A talk with co-writer/actor/director/producer George Clooney and co-writer/producer Grant Heslov where they talk about making the film, the locations they shot in, the casting of the actors, how they converted the play “Farragut North” into the movie, and more.  The track never gets too deep or serious, but it’s a fun listen since the two men are good friends and have a good time making fun of each other and themselves.  If you are a fan of Clooney or the movie, you will most likely enjoy listening to this track.
  • Developing the Campaign: The Origin of The Ides of March – A seven minute look at how the play inspired the movie and the background genesis of the movie.
  • Believe: George Clooney – A short look at how the cast viewed Clooney as an actor and as a director.  Of course they praised him but it seems genuine and it’s easy to believe after seeing the movie.  We also hear from Clooney himself talk about the challenges of working on both sides of the camera and why he chose to do it anyway.
  • On the Campaign: The Cast of The Ides of March – Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ryan Gosling, Max Minghella, George Clooney, Paul Giamatti, and Evan Rachel Wood discuss why they wanted to be in the movie and talk about their characters that they play.
  • What Does a Political Consultant Do? – We hear from Political Consultant Stuart Stevens (who used be a consultant on Clooney’s K Street show) who talks about being a political junkie and how he can’t get enough of elections.
  • Ultraviolet Copy – For the record, I hate ultraviolet copies and wish that the studios would go back to just offering an iTunes or Windows Media Player copy which are a lot easier to obtain and you don’t have to use an additional App to view them.  It’s better than nothing but I really wish every studio would stop trying to do their own thing and just use iTunes.
  • BD-Live

Final Thoughts  

This movie was marketed as being a taut thriller which it really isn’t since this kind of narrative has been done many times before, but it is a smart look at politics – both in front of the camera and behind it.  The movie’s cynical and fairly bleak ending may turn off some viewers but it’s true to this day and age’s political world where ideals, people, and morals are tossed aside for any chance of victory.  The movie is well directed by Clooney and the superb cast offers some very strong performances and this Blu-ray continues that excellence with its stunning audio and video quality.

Order your copy today!


2 Responses to “The Ides of March (Blu-ray Review)”

  1. Aaron Neuwirth

    Well said Sean. I basically agree with all your thoughts on the film, with the cast and Clooney’s direction making the film turn out better than what the story presents.

  2. Sean Ferguson

    Thanks Aaron!