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W. Review

W. Is a biopic of George W. Bush, directed by Oliver Stone. Right away you’d expect some harsh treatment of the subject because Stone is not known for his soft touch on his other projects (such as JFK and Nixon). But, surprisingly, the movie treats Bush quite respectably.

Stone reputably rushed this film on a budget to get it out before the election last year, and it shows.

I have nothing bad to say about the cast or direction, all are top notch, it’s just the film itself feels rather limited and even short, though it runs at over 2 hrs. A lot happened during Bush’s administration, including 9/11, Iraq, Afghanistan, The War On Terror, The Florida Recount, Guantanamo Bay and the rest. But the film focuses on just some of Bush’s past and on the original decision to invade Iraq. It doesn’t criticize or use controversial material and seems rather meek for a Stone pic!

Bush is shown to be a man dominated by his father and his advisers such as Dick Cheney and Karl Rove. He is initially in the shadow of his his brother Jeb, whom his father favours, and his childhood is mostly a drunken mess where he fails to hold a job yet still manages to graduate from Yale with his fathers influence.

After his father becomes President, Bush cleans up his act at AA meetings and becomes a born again Christian. He helps his father win his first term, but is unhappy about his lack of ambition to go after Saddam Hussein in Iraq in the original Operation Desert Storm. His father loses office after just that first term to Clinton, and Bush Jr. decides to run for the Senator of Texas.

George Sr. is unhappy about this decision, as his other son Jeb is also running for Florida, but George Jr. goes ahead anyway – and with a lot of help from Rove and his wife Laura wins the seat.

Most of the political intrigue of his time in office as President is reduced to showing the discussions of the invasion of Iraq. Mainly, whether or not there are WMD’s there. Bush is shown to be conflicted on the issue, as he wants to invade (partly due to his fathers failure), but he doesn’t want to invade without good reason. Eventually, he is pushed into attacking, along with his “allies” (mainly smaller countries with no armies of their own, and of course Great Britain).

The problem with this film is we all know the story, as it’s very recent material. You expect a biopic to delve into the character and past of the man, but it doesn’t do this in any great detail. We already know he had an alcoholic past, and a privileged upbringing, so there’s nothing new there.

Still, this is a watchable movie and Josh Brolin is excellent as Bush. Richard Dreyfuss plays a domineering Cheney, and James Cromwell plays the father, George H Bush, around whose relationship with his son the movie is centered. Ioan Gruffyd pops up as Tony Blair in one scene, where is shown urging restraint and UN help on the Iraq situation. I guess Michael Sheen was unavailable!

Some scenes strive to show the “inner man”, such as a nightmare where his father attacks him, a discussion with Rove where he is told that he “has to do something with his life”, and a question at a press conference where is he is lost for words when asked what his legacy will be.

As mentioned in other reviews, a movie or mini series about Bush might be more powerful in another ten years where extra time can be used to show his entire two terms as President. But for now, Stones treatment will do. I’ve always been ambivalent about Bush, neither hated or loved the man, and the movie hasn’t really changed my views in any way.

7/10 – Entertaining, but limited, treatment of George Dubya Bush.


Rotten Tomatoes