Us Rating: ***1/2
Opens: Friday 10/7
George Clooney's latest turn behind the camera is cold-blooded, cynical -- and utterly captivating. The drama unfolds during a presidential primary in Ohio: While Clooney (who also cowrote) plays the smooth and idealistic candidate, Ryan Gosling takes the lead as his upstart press secretary. He's the pro who can ably tip off a New York Times reporter (Marisa Tomei) and volley with rival campaign managers (Paul Giamatti and Philip Seymour Hoffman). But when he uncovers a sex scandal involving an intern (Evan Rachel Wood), his political perch crumbles. Though the film feels familiar in a West Wing kind of way, it delivers with crisp dialogue, simmering tension and top-shelf acting. Gosling caps off a banner year with his portrayal of a confident-yet-conflicted character; even going toe-to-toe with Clooney, he commands the screen. (Just wait until the two boldly face off in a desolate tavern kitchen.) Capturing a world of intense betrayal and power-playing, the story hurdles toward an unsettling resolution. But there's no debate: Ides is a winner.