REVIEW: W. [2008]


I’m going to start this review by saying I have no idea why Oliver Stone thought his new film W. would have any effect on the upcoming elections. The guy gave himself almost no time to edit his footage so that it could be released two weeks before Election Day. Don’t get me wrong, the film is constructed very nicely, he did a great job in that short time, all I’m saying is that he didn’t need to rush. I mean if he was trying to show the world why not to vote Republican, he should have done a film about Bush’s second term and the blunders he made in concern with Iraq. Instead, though, this bio-pic actually glorifies the man, telling how a screw-up punk could turn his life around, find religion, quit drinking, and become the leader of the free world. The story is inspiring, showing how his no-lose attitude made him into the most powerful man in the country, sticking to his guns and doing everything necessary to keep America safe. Sure his cabinet, (except for Powell), is shown in a horrible light, basically being blamed for any mistakes made in the first term, but that doesn’t speak to the party exactly. I’m not really sure what Stone wanted to achieve here, but besides an entertaining look behind closed doors with some fantastic imitations that rival Tina Fey’s Palin, there isn’t really that much else.

The construction bounces around from Dubya’s first term Presidency, his past growing up under the strict rules and family legacy of George Sr., and a dream-like Texas Rangers centerfield sequence that crops up a couple times. We are given time stamps to help orient us, (a good move considering Josh Brolin plays Bush at every age, a bit strange when with college kids at a frat hazing), and the hair color change helps as well. In my opinion the most entertaining moments are in the Oval Office, listening to the cabinet interact with the President and the back and forth between them all—especially the rapport between Cheney and Powell. At first it was strange looking at these actors I know and love pretend to be real life characters, (I was mesmerized by Thandie Newton’s transformation into Condi Rice, the scowl and weird voice were great), but once I accepted them as the role, it all worked. Even Brolin’s Bush starts to look like the real man while the voice was exact from the start.

As for the early days, it would get a little redundant watching the wild child drink his way into trouble and Poppy doing what he can to erase the record. The two of them butting heads got a little old too, but when they almost squared off to fight at the Bush house, that was fun, especially with Ellen Burstyn’s Barbara. I always remember her being the old grandma in the background, never remembering the emotion and stubbornness they speak of throughout. Dubya is like his mother, shooting from the hip, while Jeb is his father, thinking things through and only moving when absolutely necessary. This comparison crops up often, I’m sure very purposely on Stone’s part, because it holds true in regards to Iraq, that hot-button topic most people are going to see this film to find out about. George Sr. did only what was needed, he won Desert Storm quick, showing Saddam his place, but he realized that occupation in the Middle East would leave them alone and be a horrible thing for his nation. This decision, to me, is the most important part of the story, but possibly because it sheds light on the disposition of the American public and their fickle attitudes in regard to vilifying people and placing blame.

Geroge H.W. Bush decided to take his victory and leave Eurasia alone. He proved his point and showed America’s strength. However, when re-election came up shortly after, Bill Clinton takes over. Dubya tells his father it’s because the public wanted blood, they wanted Saddam’s head, and that show of weakness cost him the vote. I believe this is brilliant foreshadowing for the future. Think about it. Dubya had the highest approval rating of any President ever. He got his revenge by invading Afghanistan, and he answered the call for blood by going into Iraq. He knew the voters wanted action, they wanted redemption for those killed on 9/11 and he gave them just that. In return, Bush received the most votes ever in a huge victory over John Kerry. And here is where I might be able to see Stone’s intentions, because by showing these events, he is telling the public that they asked for it and they got it. You can’t blame anyone but yourself because your bloodlust was answered. Sure, maybe the decisions second term weren’t the best, but the majority of the US wanted this war. So, I guess if anything, W. is showing voters that it is up to them to be educated and understand the topics and issues. Maybe next time you shouldn’t let your emotions lead your vote, but instead your head.

To get back to the film, though, it is a fascinating story of the American dream. Yes Dubya grew up with a silver spoon, but his trials and tribulations showed him a path to greatness and he not only took it, but succeeded with it. Brolin knocks the role out of the park, never becoming a caricature or only there for laughs, he is Bush. The rest of the cast is a lot of fun, Richard Dreyfuss is unrecognizable, you may think Dick Cheney actually played himself, and both James Cromwell and Toby Jones are effective as George Sr. and Karl Rove respectively. The most memorable and I think well-constructed member has to be Jeffrey Wright’s rendition of Powell. Here is a conflicted man, against the new road being paved and specking his mind. However, when the time comes to oppose the plan, he relents and becomes complicit. The inner struggle is always on his face, coming up with memories of how the Gulf War was handled, yet he never stood firm or against the Commander-in-Chief. He became just another lemming allowing everything it seems the nation hates about Bush’s terms. If you take anything from this film, hopefully it will be that you can help make the decision for what happens in this country starting next year. All you have to do is vote, but don’t let emotions run your hand again, don’t vote Democrat because you were against Bush. Vote for the candidate you think can help, whether that means voting another Republican in or not.

W. 8/10 | ★ ★ ★

[1] Richard Dreyfuss (“Dick Cheney”), Josh Brolin (“George W. Bush”), Toby Jones (“Karl Rove”), Rob Corddry (“Ari Fleischer”) and Thandie Newton (“Condoleezza Rice”) star in Lionsgate Home Entertainment’s W.
[2] Ellen Burstyn (“Barbara Bush,” left) and James Cromwell (“George H.W. Bush,” right) star in Lionsgate Home Entertainment’s W.


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