Steve (Gosling) is working with campaign director Paul (Hoffman) on the presidential campaign of Pennsylvania Governor Mike Morris (Clooney), and the current focus is the pivotal Ohio primary. As Steve starts to fall for young intern Molly (Wood), he is invited to meet with rival campaign manager Tom (Giamatti). And soon he finds his idealistic world disintegrating around him: Molly reveals information that could destroy Morris' campaign, while meeting with Tom jeopardises Steve's job. Meanwhile, backroom deals with an ambitious senator (Wright) call everyone's integrity into question.
Adapted from Willimon's play Farragut North, this is about how integrity in politics is actually a myth. Merely surviving at this level of power requires compromise, deception and dirty tricks. And as the story progresses through a series of tough plot points and emotional carnage, these blurred ethics begin to infect everyone on screen. Oddly, and a little bit obviously, the most moral character is the one the press would label as the villain of the piece.
Yes, it's all rather stagey and constructed, but Clooney and his cast breathe life into each scene, drawing out tiny details that continually send chills up our spines. The interplay between Gosling, Hoffman and Giamatti is riveting, with a certain West Wing-like zing of intelligence that forces us to sit up and pay attention. As an actor, Clooney glides around the edges of the film like an adored guru, present more often in hopeful campaign posters than in person.
A smart approach to the material makes this film thoroughly gripping, especially as it continually challenges Steve's (and our) ideas of right and wrong. With forceful political statements peppered throughout the script, the film has a complexity that's rare in Hollywood movies. As a result, we never feel like we're being preached at. Instead, we are forced to examine our own opinions. And we can't help but conclude that the American political system is essentially a sham. Not that we ever thought otherwise.
Run time: 101 mins
In Theaters: Friday 7th October 2011
Box Office USA: $41.0M
Box Office Worldwide: $76M
Distributed by: Sony Pictures
Production compaines: Crystal City Entertainment, Cross Creek Pictures, Exclusive Media Group, Smokehouse Pictures
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 85%
Fresh: 184 Rotten: 33
IMDB: 7.2 / 10
Director: George Clooney
Starring: Ryan Gosling as Stephen Meyers, George Clooney as Governer Mike Morris, Philip Seymour Hoffman as Paul Zara, Paul Giamatti as Tom Duffy, Evan Rachel Wood as Molly Stearns, Marisa Tomei as Ida Horowicz, Jeffrey Wright as Senator Franklin Thompson, Jennifer Ehle as Cindy Morris, Gregory Itzin as Jack Stearns, Michael Mantell as Senator Ted Pullman, Max Minghella as Ben Harpen, Yuriy Sardarov as Mike, Bella Ivory as Jenny, Maya Sayre as Sue, Danny Mooney as Campaign Editor
Also starring: Grant Heslov
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