On-screen presidents: Can George Clooney match Martin Sheen?

The Ides of March trailer shows George Clooney stepping into West Wing territory as he plays a presidential candidate

The promo for George Clooney's political thriller The Ides of March starts with the crash of a heavy oak door. President Josiah Bartlet strides down a hallway – greeting interns, debating policy and wise-cracking about the First Lady's cooking before … Oh hold on. I misspoke.

The promo for George Clooney's political thriller The Ides of March starts with the roar of a jet engine. Governor Mike Morris (Clooney) and his presidential campaign manager, Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling), are in the air, discussing the nature of morality. "Nothing bad happens when you're doing the right thing," says Gosling. "Is this your personal theory? Because I can shoot holes in it," Clooney replies. The drums roll, the guitar wails. This, they say, is a serious drama. Check your Aaron Sorkin fixation at the door.

A heavyweight drama on the corrupting influence of power, The Ides of March follows Gosling's character as he orchestrates Clooney's governor's bid for the presidency. The trailer hints at a political idealism thrown into the bear pit of dirty politics, of temptation and betrayal (though the clue's really in the title with that one). Gosling's Meyer, faced with the best-of-a-generation selection of character actors (Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Marisa Tomei) looks pressured and vulnerable. We don't think anyone yells "You're in over your head!", but it looks they should. Perhaps they did and the drums drowned them out.

The Ides of March opens this year's Venice film festival. We've made it one of our 50 films to keep an eye on in the Oscar race. But what do you make of it? Does that Gosling-Clooney combo spell smoothy-overload? Can Clooney as a scriptwriter make the complexities of political brinkmanship entertaining? Can Morris fill Bartlet's boots as our next fictional president?


Henry Barnes

The GuardianTramp

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