Clooney and his fantastic screenplay team of Grant Heslov and Neau Willimon do a stand-up job of making the film seem as realistic as possible as the amount of research that went into the plot is clearly visible from start to finish. Some might be intimidated by the heavy political jargon at first, but this is a crucial ingredient for internal validity that makes the film’s intense plot twists all the more credible and poignant. To make things even sweeter, Clooney never descends into the realms of predictably, as character’s choices never feel like mere plot inventions. Whilst the extremely honest and ‘real’ approach might bore certain film-goers, I personally didn’t have to force myself to enjoy each and every second of this marvellous take on modern politics.
The first part of the movie plays out like a drama about politics for the most part, as Clooney takes his time to introduce us to all the political players, their ideologies as well as the complex and dynamic relationships between each of them. Outstanding performances by a mammoth cast of A-list actors including Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood and Clooney himself means there’s a lot for drama geeks to indulge in and appreciate before the suspenseful action starts picking up. Sharp dialogue, a striking score and generously long scenes of conversation give Clooney and his cast a beautiful stage for playing out this highly relevant and timely drama.
"Sharp dialogue, a striking score and generously long scenes of conversation give Clooney and his cast a beautiful stage for playing out this highly relevant and timely drama."
The star, Ryan Gosling, deserves to be mentioned in a separate sentence (and paragraph for that matter) for his painfully believable performance as an aspiring campaign press secretary that has to deal with some massive events, forcing him to revaluate his political and personal principles. Gosling’s highly personal and emotional character evolution is the central axis that the rest of the movie gradually starts to orbit around as he tries to keep himself from drowning in a growingly turbulent sea of political scandal, plotting and backlashes. There are a lot of chess pieces on the board in this personally explorative film and each player manages to highlight another crack in Gosling’s seemingly indestructible moral compass.
All along the way, the audience is confronted with highly ambiguous moral puzzles that Gosling tries to solve in ways that fits his naive perception of politics and life the best way. Clooney gets his point across clearly: Even though mankind strives to react morally sound in all types of situations, this is sometimes just not possible when all the sacrifices and losses of certain choices are taken into consideration – How much are we willing to adapt to our own principles to get ahead and how deep will we throw others under the bus to achieve certain goals?
Serious film-goers who don’t require big explosions and extravagant plot mechanisms to keep their attention will struggle to find fault with Clooney’s masterpiece. That being said, fans of Vin Diesel and surfer movies should probably stay far away.
Highlight: The inevitable confrontation between Clooney and Gosling is the film’s climax and each line feels like a brilliant knife to the heart – Perfect in more ways than I can verbalise.