Movie Review: W


Another Oliver Stone satire.


Stars Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Banks, James Cromwell, Ellen Burstyn, Richard Dreyfuss, Toby Jones and Thandie Newton. Directed by Oliver Stone.


Filmmaker Oliver Stone (“Platoon,” “JFK,” “Nixon,” “The Doors”) has returned to the land of biopic satire with “W.” Based on the current sitting President (as of this writing), “W” is a character study into what makes George W. Bush tick. Or rather, why he did what he did/ why he does what he does.


“W” follows the story of George W. Bush from his days of hazing at Yale in the Sixties to his first unsuccessful political run to helping his dad’s campaign to running for Governor of Texas in the Nineties. The pace jumps back and forth along W’s timeline from his current administration back to the events the possibly influenced who and what he is now. The film is not so much the destination, but the journey.


Josh Brolin, whose previous played a Texan in “No Country for Old Men,” literally disappears into the title character. Sure, he may look as much like Bush as Bruce Greenwood looked like JFK in “Thirteen Days,” but when you watch his swagger and listen to his Bush accent, it’s reminiscent of the difference between Daniel Day-Lewis and the character of Daniel Plainview; you would never know it was the same person. As Bush, Brolin is the epitome of a man who is the black sheep among his family: smoking, drinking, partying, and quitting any job given to him. Whether he’s right or he’s wrong, he’s dead-set on whatever he does.


Helping (or hurting) him along this journey is his best friend, Karl Rove (Jones). Jones was a great pick for being a “sidekick” character. Dick Cheney (Dreyfuss) stands behind the war, conflicting with Colin Powell and holding a control over it that would make Emperor Palpatine proud. James Cromwell does great as the elder Bush, a man who is never seemingly happy with his son or what his son does (but then again, not many would). Stacy Keach plays a pastor that W confides with and helps out by giving him a televised ministry. The reason of importance: during his governorship, Bush feels he received the call to run for the Presidency.


And the big question the movie tries to ask: why? Why did Bush run for the Presidency? Was he really called by God to do so? Was he destined to do so? Was he trying to get out of the shadow of his father and prove himself? Did he really believe what he was doing was the right thing? The movie doesn’t answer as much as it tries postulating these ideas. Something to chew on yes, but one doesn’t always go out to eat just for the appetizers.


As said previous, this movie is more of a character study than an explanation of a person. Pro-Bush people may believe that Stone is trying to rip “W” apart. Anti-Bush people say that he didn’t go far enough. The truth of the matter is that Oliver Stone never really rips into anybody in any of his movies. He takes how he perceives an individual and skewers it to whatever he’s trying to say, which is a form of satire in some way. I loved “JFK,” but it wasn’t the absolute truth. “The Doors” was pretty good with the exception that a good chunk of it is complete bunk.


But is “W” accurate? According to Internet sources, yes it is. How true the staff meetings were, or the eventual animosity between Colin Powell and Dick Cheney became, I don’t think any of us will really know for a while, if at all. The main events of drinking, partying, failing, and quest for redemption; that’s all true. Having his past buried; that’s true as well. Most of this stuff shouldn’t need to be debated, because the real meat of what Stone could’ve used to cut into Bush was entirely left out. Overall this film was a little more than lite entertainment but nothing more than a kid making fun of the school bully while he’s out of sight.


My only real complaint about the film was Condoleezza Rice. I’ve not seen Rice on TV that much, but Thandie Newton portraying her grated on my nerves. Maybe she really was that way but the clipped speech and accent didn’t work for me.


At best, a rental.


My grade: B

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