The latest George Clooney directed film is less political thriller and more a comment on the standards of integrity we, as Americans say we value, but how we quickly push them aside without even realizing it.
There isn't much point in discussing this film without spoilers. If you don't want spoilers, but still want a recommendation, I will tell you that it is worth your time to see this movie.
Ryan Gosling's character, a campaign official for a leading Democratic Presidential candidate (Clooney), talks to people about how him believing in a cause or a person is the most important thing to him as a campaign strategist. If he doesn't believe in the cause, he says he doesn't care and it is not worth his time (paraphrasing). This film shows the character's downfall. Not his downfall in his job standing (as he actually gets a promotion by film's end), but by the downfall of the character's integrity that he doesn't notice is happening until it is too late.
Clooney is attempting to tell a story about how the integrity that all Americans say they value is quickly dispatched up when the pressure hits. When push comes to shove, the competitiveness of Americans will win out over any values that we hold to be important. When it comes down to it, we want to win. Gosling forgets his early preaching of believing in a candidate as it is quickly tossed out the window after he loses, ie: is fired from Clooney's campaign. After that, he wants to get back at him and join the other side so that he can beat Clooney (the very same candidate whom he believes is the "one"). When that doesn't work, he decides to blackmail is Clooney into hiring him back and firing the current campaign manager (Seymour Hoffman), so that he, Gosling, can lead them to victory. When it is all said and done, Gosling is left with nothing of integrity he used to hold dear.
The goals of this film are modest, and I give credit to Clooney for telling this story in a subtle enough way, because the film would have come across as preachy if he beat us over the head with it. Clooney doesn't deliver some epic political tale, but instead delivers a modest drama with an engrossing lead performance. Gosling delivers a far more complete performance here than he did in Drive, and I wish this was the performance that was receiving all of the attention.
- The biggest weakness of the film is that none of the supporting characters in the movie are really characters. They are mostly just scenery to surround Gosling, as Clooney tells his tale. All the actors do a fine job, but we don't really get to know any of them, so there is not too much judge other than how they describe themselves.
- Blink and you miss Jeffrey Wright and Jennifer Ehle. What was the point of hiring them if you are really not going to do anything with them