Oliver Stone’s look at the political coming of age of the current President George W. Bush is an entertaining, engaging, and fairly unbiased look at the life of one of the most interesting political figures ever.
George W. Bush (Josh Brolin) didn’t always want to be a politician, his family was politics though, over the course of his entire life someone from his family was involved and running/holding office in some capacity on the state or national level. But W. wasn’t all that interested at first, he liked to drink, party, and be kind of a screw up. Jumping from job to job, not finding enjoyment in the work his family tries to lay out for him, moving from one wake of life to another, he was kind of all over the place. Jeb Bush was being groomed for political greatness, it was Jeb that George Sr. had aspirations for, and George Sr.’s lack of confidence in W. would prove to be a driving force in his passion to finally make something of himself. Becoming an owner of the Texas Rangers, attempting to become the Commissioner of MLB, none of these accolades earned W. the respect that he thought he deserved and with that he decided to seriously enter the political arena running for the Governor of Texas.
W.’s political climb is intercut with his deliberations and planning with his Cabinet during his first term as president and we get to see a look into the president that we all know from today. It is interesting watching these scenes 4-5 years or so removed, knowing the outcome and wonder how it all happened. Bush was adored at this moment in his presidency, 80% approval ratings and the country was behind him and anything he wanted to do against the fight on terror. The film depicts Bush’s Cabinet of having a number of personal agenda’s and plans of their own and the biggest slight on the man throughout the film comes from the idea that W. kind of let others run the show while he interjected timely advice and provided an ultimate goal. We get to see the meeting that named the Access of Evil and the War Room decision to invade Iraq among others and the film paints Bush as having ideas and goals, but is definitely following the strategic lead of both Cheney and Rumsfeld. It’s also interesting the way that they show the overlying arc and dis-contempt that W. gained for some of his Cabinet and shows that he might not have been on board with some of the measures we took in the Iraq War, and that the failures of intelligence fall on many others before him. You feel sympathetic for the President, as he was led into a huge fucking mess with confidence from his advisors, but then left him to roast when it all went bad.
The film’s other main dynamic I have already alluded to, and that is the one between W. and his father George Sr., or ‘Poppy’. James Cromwell does a great job as Sr. as Brolin and him get into it time and time again, with Cromwell nailing the backhanded approval when W. succeeds and showing disdain without being ripping his son a new one at the same time. Much of the drive in Stone’s W. comes from his relationship with his father, and it will be interesting to see how much that holds up in hindsight after things have been allowed to settle around the man and we can get a more honest and unbiased look at our current president in the future.
Explaining the film is a bit redundant, as much of it is well documented and known, but there are plenty of insights and tidbits to be found, especially if you do not follow politics closely. Though Stone has turned W.’s life into an engaging tale that more than holds our interest over the course of the two hour runtime. He doesn’t hold back at showing the antics of Bush’s younger years, but doesn’t shy away from showing the better qualities of the man as well. Stone show W. as a very confident, compelling, charming, and driven man that has got a lot of the things he set out to due in his life. He paints sympathy for the W. as his father doesn’t respect him or as he struggles through some alcohol problems, and sells us on his genuine sincerity on his return to the Christian church. Stone’s W. is a sympathetic character, much different to the buffoon and hated man that now sits in the Oval Office.
W. works so well as an entertaining and intriguing look at the man and history due to the phenomenal performance by Josh Brolin. He just nails current George W. Bush to a T, and makes him both likable and relatable, and you get how he was able to get where he is today. The W. of yester year was a driving force, moving forward, and determined, and it is a bit said to see what he has become stuck cowering in a corner with nowhere to go but out of his current Presidency. And we feel all of this for someone that just drives us insane with the moves of his administration over the last few years that we can’t wait for the day he leaves office. For creating an image of W. on the screen that can cause so many conflicting feelings over the current persona the same man deserves accolades abound for Josh Brolin who has moved into the, “I can’t wait to see what he does next” category of actors with this film. Brolin is supported by a bundle of good actors as his family and cabinet with some of them performing some standout work. Elizabeth Banks does a fine job as Laura Bush and provides a solid rock for W. to lean on when he needs it the most, and her watchful eye helped him right his ship from the drinking and partying. Banks and Brolin have great chemistry when together and they give us a nice picture of Bush’s life that is mostly ignored, that life with his wife. Toby Jones as Karl Rove is just great and you can feel the friendship between W. through the screen. Richard Dreyfuss plays Chaney as an oil grabbing schemer that you just can’t possibly trust as he tries to weasel out policy through an easily ‘on board’ W. Thandie Newton’s Condoleezza Rice did not work for me though, as she just came across very oddly every time she was on screen and seemed a bit to much of a parody over everyone else’s portrayals of their respective real counterparts. Jeffery Wright is also another stand out as Colin Powell and the voice of reason in the room most of the time, nailing the confident and collective nature of the man, and the frustration it must have caused a military man like him to see politicians planning a war like they new what they were doing. The rest of the cast does a fine job as well though, but to go through everyone in this film would take another thousand words.
In the end, W., is a very effective and entertaining biopic that allows us to take a look at our currently ridiculed President at and angle that no one looks at him any more, as just a simple man making his life. The movie will have people talking and reflecting on their opinions of the man. W. takes out all the political bullshit and shows this man without all of that and while you still might not agree with the man and his policies, it might make you stand up and respect the man and his life as a human being, as that is what everyone should probably be judged on in the end, even if they might have lost their way in their current job or role in society.