The ides of march, directed by George Clooney, tells the story of Stephen Meyers (played by Ryan Gosling), the junior campaign manager for the aspiring presidential candidate, governor Mike Morris (played by Clooney).
The film depicts the cut-throat nature of high-end politics through the eyes of a relatively low-standing member of the process. This is an ideal role for the main character however, as it lets the movie explore the struggles of both the candidate their self, as well as their staff.
A persistent theme in the movie is that of loyalty, and the lack of it. This is a concept perfectly expressed by arguably the most important side character in the story, Paul Zara. His role in the narrative is as the primary campaign manager, and Stephens mentor. Thematically, he symbolises the peak of loyalty. One sees this in his actions, as he fires Stephen due to him meeting with a rival candidate’s manager, Tom Duffy, and failing to inform Paul in time. His reasoning is doubting Stephens loyalty to their own campaign and suspecting him of trying to ache out a better deal for himself with Tom. Later, when Stephen blackmails Mike to make him fire Paul, and give the now available job to Stephen, Paul seemingly accepts his fate, rather than trying to retaliate. This shows the clear contrast between him and his previous underling, who tried to sell out Mikes dirty secrets to Tom after originally losing his job, both as revenge and in a futile attempt to get a new job.
The films name, the ides of march, is a reference to the roman date corresponding to March 15th. The ides of each month were celebrations dedicated to the head god of the roman pantheon, Jupiter. In addition to several rituals, the ides were often seen as the deadline to repay a debt. The most famous occurrence on this date, however, is the assassination of Julius Cesar. Knowing the historical contest certainly makes the metaphor easier to see. In the movie, Mike can be seen as a Cesar like figure. Much have been made about Cesar, both as a politician, and as a military tactician, but no matter his armies or wit, he could not prevent every internal struggle, and that was what would eventually kill him. I a similar, if slightly less dramatic, the seemingly flawless Mike steals the hearts of voters and the viewer alike. It is not before the final third of the movie that it is revealed that he impregnated one of his staff members, and it is even implied he raped her. In the end, this is used against him by Stephen, whom had previously been working under him, and someone who was somewhat close with him compared to most of Mikes staff. Here, Stephen acts as an analogy to Brutus. Through these metaphors and references, this purely fictional story can be made to feel more real than even reports and stories the movie has used as inspiration, such as Bill Clintons own sex-scandal.
When Paul claims that one is nothing without their loyalty, in the context of high-end politics, there might be something to that statement. The consequences of distrust and paranoia is most clearly presented through the ever-shifting relationship between Stephen, Mike and Paul. In the movie, the conflict stems from the distrust, sown by Pauls distrust to Stephens motives for meeting with a rival campaign manager. From here, no one in the story can really trust each other, as doubt has originally been sown, which disrupts the political machine that builds up a presidential candidate. In the end though, the viewer is left asking themselves what constitutes loyalty, and at what point it crosses over to blind obedience.