For his fourth film as director, George Clooney plunges into the murky world of US politics with The Ides of March, an intricately plotted thriller set during the race to choose the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate.

Clooney takes the part of one of the two contenders, charismatic liberal governor Mike Morris, but he doesn’t take centre stage. That role goes to Ryan Gosling, who plays Morris’s ambitious young press secretary, Stephen Meyers, and it’s around him that the plot revolves.

First seen riffing on his boss’s speech while doing a microphone check, Meyers is half naïve idealist and half ruthless operator. As the campaign progresses, however, and he gets more and more mired in the grubby wheeling and dealing and outright dirty tricks needed to win the contest, it’s the latter half of his nature that gains the upper hand.

Based on the play Farragut North by Beau Willimon, The Ides of March takes a view of the political process that is closer to the dark cynicism of House of Cards than the rosy optimism of The West Wing. The writing isn’t as clever or witty as either of those, but a powerhouse cast makes the most of every line.

And with Evan Rachel Wood’s flirty young intern, Marisa Tomei’s scoop-hungry reporter and Philip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Giamatti’s rival campaign managers jockeying for position with Gosling’s Meyers, the twists and turns in the plot are sure to catch the viewer off guard.

On general release from Friday 28th October.

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