Movies like The Ides of March don’t get made too often nowadays. Drama is hard enough to sell to a broad audience and politics – in these socially divisive times – is even harder. It takes a special breed of filmmaker to pull off an All the President’s Men or Parallax View in 2011 but if there’s anyone who is capable of combining a cool cast a campaign conspiracy and a clear-cut message about moral corruption it’s George Clooney. In his fourth outing as director the Oscar and Golden Globe winning actor brought Beau Willimon’s off-Broadway play “Farragut North” to the big screen as Ides after years of delays that saw actors such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Chris Pine come and go leaving the lead role open for man of the year Ryan Gosling to inhabit with 360 degrees of humanity.
The film was a modest success in the fall of 2011 grossing over $60 million worlwide on a shoe-string budget and racking up four Golden Globe nominations. Now Sony Pictures Home Entertainent releases the taut intelligent thriller in a compact 2-disc Blu-ray/DVD combo pack that gives a well-rounded look at the ideas behind the Ides. While its 1080p 2.40:1 HD transfer lends rich colors and an up-close-and-personal aesthetic to the viewing experience you’re not buying this Blu-ray for the movie’s cinematography sound design or special effects. The prize for owning The Ides of March is getting to hear about star/director/writer Clooney’s take on the material and the disc’s special features give you plenty of the A-lister.
Starting with “Developing the Campaign: The Origins of The Ides of March” (one of two Blu-ray exclusive featurettes) you’re treated to a handful of snippets with him co-writer and producer Grant Heslov playwright Willimon and producer Brian Oliver who collectively report on the genesis of the story from stage to script and finally to screen. Given his well-known interest in public affairs and politics it’s interesting to hear how Clooney’s passionate beliefs effected the metamorphosis of the story and how Willimon’s experiences working on various campaigns added to the authenticity of the narrative. Fans of the source material will enjoy taking note of the explanations given by all of the fore mentioned individuals as to why certain changes were made such as the addition of the candidate character that Clooney plays and the alterations of some of the locations to reflect the current political climate.
Of course if you came out to see the film at the theater you’re no doubt a loyal follower of one of the many stars of the picture and “On the Campaign: The Cast of The Ides of March” will probably be the biggest bonus for you. Relatively standard as far as home entertainment releases go it gives everyone – from Paul Giamatti and Philip Seymour Hoffman to Evan Rachel Wood and Marisa Tomei – a chance to tell you why the got involved in the project and who their characters are in their eyes. What I enjoyed most about this was hearing them praise each others abilities. Clooney boasts the fact that “Every single actor we got was our first choice ” (a rarity in film production) while Gosling claims that “I would probably do any movie just to get to work with any one of these actors and then to get to work with them all in one film is pretty….rad.”
In “Believe: George Clooney ” the film’s prestigious cast discusses the talent of their director and Clooney himself weighs in on the difficulties of directing oneself. Most of the performers seemed to be genuinely enamored by his ability to be both in the moment and out of the moment and though this feat has been championed before with a story as complex as this it is quite the marvel. “Believe” is the most production-oriented featurette included on the disc and though it doesn’t accomplish what a more thorough making-of documentary would it does allow you to observe Clooney’s process. Still you can indulge in a commentary track with both Clooney and Heslov for a more in-depth analysis of the filming process. Delving even further into process is “What does a Political Consultant Do? ” another Blu-ray exclusive that is a bit more politically technical than your average film fan might want to view but since Stuart Stevens a real-life political consultant contributed to the development of the characters and legitimacy of the story it makes for an informative lesson about the people who really hold power in Washington which is ultimately what The Ides of March is all about.