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The Ides of March

Over two-thousand years ago the greatest military mind to ever live, breathed, fought and died. His ambitions were admired, fought for, and viciously betrayed. His name was, Gaius Julius Caesar. His biographers, Lucius Mercius Plutarchus (Plutarch) and Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus (Suetonius), tell tales of a benevolent dictator stabbed in the back by Marcus Junius Brutus, (Brutus).

Much later, in another history, Cassius Dio explained why. After Brutus saw his sins of pride were more apparent in another, he’d found the means of covering his shame. Haughty in his hopes he paved the way for his brother Judas by murdering a man far greater than he.

George Clooney’s, “Ides of March,” in no less dramatic or compelling. For it is without question one of the greatest political drama’s that has ever been written for the silver screen. Penned by Clooney himself, with help from Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon, it harkens back to the tragedy above as well as Willimon’s own work.

In 2008 Willimon unleashed his political play, “Farragut North,” upon American voters. The work was based upon Howard Dean’s campaign during the 2004 Democratic Primary. And from there Ides takes its jargon, settings, and style. However, its character types and tones echo elsewhere. Another play in fact… Shakespeare’s, “Julius Caesar.” Every English speaking author owes a debt to Shakespeare, and Ides crew repays him with gratitude.

Shakespeare shaped this language through his morality plays. Julius Caesar is amongst his crowning jewels, and this is why. First and foremost he precluded the famous name with, “The Tragedy of…” And The Tragedy of Julius Caesar is easily seen as such when done so through Shakespeare’s eyes. Interestingly enough said cavities are filled not with the vision of the Caesar himself, but rather those who seek his downfall.

This is exactly how Clooney’s “The Ides of March” plays out. His character Mike Morris is relegated to select scenes, while those that plot his demise dominate the screen. None more so than Ryan Gosling’s character Stephen Meyers. Stephen builds upon the Brutus lore by becoming a villain so vile words fail to describe him. Seeing Stephen develop into scum is a feat few writers could convince me of. Thanks to some solid shoulders to stand on this script accomplished the task with stars and stripes. For that I must give the movies’ authors a Golden Baby nod for their outstanding efforts.

The Ides of March is an extarordinary example of modern day penmanship put into proper practice. To this fact I dip my hat and sign off another week of my life at the movies.

Comments

  • Chris Elliott

    Great piece man. One of your best MLATM in a while. I really liked the parallels you drew. Very intriguing and I respect the fact that you instantly picked up on them. Andrew wanted me to see this with him the other night and if it wasn’t so last minute I would have. Definitely have to try and catch it before it’s out of theatres. Amazing that Clooney co-wrote it. I’ve been focusing on writing alot more in movies these days, so I’ll be sure to pay extra attention to the screenplay when watching. Thanks for this! 

    • Anonymous

      I will be interested to see your own take. There is so much in the film to digest that I only focused on an angle. Glad to hear that angle was enjoyed.

  • sabrina

    excellent movie!!

  • Anonymous

    Excellent review! Brutus has always been my guy, so it’s no surprise that I didn’t really see Stephen as the villain, but as a pawn just trying to find a way to survive – sometimes we must do terrible things in order to keep going. It was an incredible movie though, with a great script. Definitely hoping this one goes far this year.

    • Anonymous

      I love that you have your take. I couldn’t see it any other way, but then again, I am happy to have friends like you who can. :)  

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