Tuesday, February 14, 2012

DVD REVIEWS - The Ides of March

The pressure of trying to run a successful political campaign is undeniable. We can deduce this simply from watching the effort put in by candidates on their campaign trail, hopping from location to location, speaking and debating until you either accept defeat or you emerge victorious. To make matters worse, these politicians and their staff members constantly find themselves under attack by those who do not want to see them succeed. Faced with this adversity, the atmosphere of a campaign quickly turns into a BAMN situation. The only goal? Win, by any means necessary.

And that is the view that The Ides of March, presents to moviegoers. To win, to climb ahead, to do whatever it takes to come out on top. That certainly is the mantra of Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling), the press secretary for the Pennsylviania State Governor and presidential candidate Mike Morris (George Clooney). He believes in what Gov. Morris stands for as a candidate, but more importantly, he believes in himself. He doesn't look forward to one day seeing Gov. Morris in the White House, but instead basking in the reflected glory that would ultimately land him a job on Pennsylvania Ave.

Those that Meyers encounters during the Ohio Primary, including Morris' campaign manager Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman) as well as Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti), campaign manager for the rival Democratic candidate are all seasoned veterans. As such, they have a more realistic grasp of the political world. Zara believes that there is nothing more important than loyalty and Duffy shows a prowess to manipulate others for the benefit of his campaign. These men outwardly display the fatigue of countless political campaigns and demonstrate that they will do whatever they have to to ensure the success of their candidate.

The tension created by the primary leads the players looking for any form of release. For Meyers, it means having sexual encounters with a gorgeous young intern Molly Stearn (Evan Rachael Wood), leading her to confide in Meyers a secret that could bring his dreams crashing down around him. As the story presses on and Meyers faces wave after wave of adversity, his eager and idealistic mindset erodes to expose a dark, amoral core which is hellbent on his own success. Herein lies the most important question the film poses to its audience: is it possible for a politician to emerge victorious from a campaign without compromising their original ideals and beliefs?

The all-star cast, which also includes Marisa Tomei and Jeffrey Wright, displays that the strength of the film is in the acting, with Gosling leading the charge with another stunning performance. And while corruption, blackmailing, and extortion in the world of politics are by no means revolutionary viewpoints, The Ides of March still does a fantastic job portraying how the immense pressure of a political campaign can expose people for who they really are.

Monday, February 13, 2012


Ryan Gosling's character is known only as, "The Driver," which is fitting, because that's all he does. Whether it is earning a living as a Hollywood stuntman or moonlighting as a getaway driver for hire, he does one thing and he does it extremely well. The Driver stirs up memories of Clint Eastwood's The Man with No Name. To the audience, he has no past, no family, and no emotions, or so we think.

The film is set in Los Angeles, although with the opening credits and the soundtrack, it feels like we are watching an old rerun of Miami Vice. Driver lives next door to Irene (Carey Mulligan) and her son Benicio (Kaden Leos). When The Driver is introduced to his neighbors, we begin to see a glimmer of emotion and an eventually motivator for the rest of the storyline. A week later, Irene's husband, Standard (Oscar Isaac) returns home from prison and finds his wife and son warmed up to this quiet stranger. However, instead of succumbing to jealously, Standard senses that The Driver is a professional and comes to him with a need for a wheelman. The ensuing heist puts both Irene and Benicio in danger, leading The Driver to reveal his deep-seeded emotions and loyalties.

Drive, is teeming with influence from classic film noir pieces. The anticipation and tenseness that the audience experiences comes from the fact the emotions and feelings aren't out in the open, but rather hidden in the shadows. The Driver embodies these noir traits, only to have them amplified by the juxtaposition of the characters surrounding him, who bring backgrounds into the story. Albert Brooks and Ron Perlman play influential men in the world of organized crime in Los Angeles and steal the show every time they set foot in a scene. Bryan Cranston also helps to bring life to the world of The Driver, as his mentor in the world of automobiles.

On the surface, Drive may seem like another film along the vein of The Fast and the Furious: another action movie jam packed with car chases and predictable story lines. But this film places emphasis on writing, dialogue, and storytelling, leading us to care not only about the enigmatic protagonist, but also about the reason and outcome of the car chases. We aren't content to sit back and be overwhelmed by special effects and CGI. Instead, we hang on the edge of our seats, following the hero through his exploits and waiting for him to ride, or rather drive, off into the sunset.