In a time and place much like our own the Presidential primary season has whittled the Democratic field down to two candidates. One is a Senator who never appears on camera, but we get the impression that he is fairly sleazy. The other is Governor Mike Morris (played by George Clooney who also directed and co-wrote the screenplay.) He’s handsome and smart and idealistic and says all the things that George Clooney would like to hear a Presidential candidate say. This of course gives him an excellent chance of winning the general election.
However the main focus is not on the candidates but on their staffs. Stephen Myers (Ryan Gosling) is the governor’s idealistic young media director, whose faith will be sorely tested. He sometimes clashes with his boss Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman) the governor’s hard-bitten campaign manager.
Zara’s archenemy is Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti) the opposing campaign manager. Duffy is superficially charming, but smart and ruthless.
Hollywood political thrillers tend to have an inverse relationship to the current political alignment. If a Republican administration were in power these same people might have made a movie about an idealistic liberal politician who overcame formidable challenges to lead the people to a promised land that looks very much like Sweden.
However we are actually almost through the third year of a Democratic administration. Hence the world is a dark and disappointing place, where liberal messiahs always let you down (and probably never intended to turn the country into Sweden in the first place.)
Still this is a well-crafted movie. As long as you are not looking for deep political insights you may find it reasonably entertaining.