Who other than Oliver Stone (the man behind such controversial films as JFK and Nixon) would make a film about the current Commander and Chief? Stone is a man driven making people fully aware of who they vote for next week. He wants us to make the right choice, and elect the right person.
The film focuses an equal amount of time between young and old Bush, jumping back and forth in narrative. It shows his young, drunk antics as a youth, eager to impress his Poppy. His confusing, middle-aged years, when he cannot figure out what to do, and finally, his years as President.
Josh Brolin, in the title role, delivers the performance of his career. Aside from the fact that he perfectly nails every nuance of the man, he also, rather marvelously, makes the character his own. While I am no fan of Bush, I was completely enthralled by Brolin.
His supporting cast is one for the ages. Richard Dreyfuss digs deep into the seeds of Dick Cheney’s master plan, Toby Jones delivers a hauntingly optimistic Karl Rove, Elizabeth Banks makes for a sensitive and hesitant Laura Bush, James Cromwell is a perfect fit for Bush Sr., and the beautiful Thandie Newton does a spot-on impression of Condie Rice.
Politics aside, W. is a bit off-balanced. For one reason or another, the film completely dodges such topics as the 2000 election and 9/11, but manages to make room for a choking pretzel scene. There is a fantastic, 20 minute 'war-room' scene where everyone talks about what to do after 9/11. At the beginning, it is all about Afghanistan, but somehow, thanks to the help of a very convincing Cheney, the focus switches to Iraq. It is a great arch in dialogue and storytelling as Bush stands at the head of the table, seemingly confused about what is being presented.
I saw the film as a story about a wealthy kid with a massive daddy-complex, whose only real dream was to be the commissionaire of baseball. Once in the White House, he let people like Rove and Cheney control his puppet strings.
Is the film accurate? I don't know. And I don't really care; I don't see movies for historical lessons. Oliver Stone based the film mostly on books written by people who were actually in those meetings (like Colin Powell). But honest to God, by the end of the film (which really only goes up to the year 2004), I felt bad for Bush. I saw him as a guy that was in over his head, and when he finally got there, he was just as stunned as everyone else.
W. isn’t all that entertaining and it isn't very informative, but I did appreciate it. People who lean to the right probably won’t even bother with it, but I doubt Stone minds. He’s never been a filmmaker that aims to please all audiences (maybe with World Trade Center). But here, he lets his actors, Brolin in particular, flourish with emotion. B