Oliver Stone’s W. presents former President George Bush as a well-meaning idealist with daddy issues in a fictional take starring Josh Brolin as the titular lead. The humanist and empathetic approach to one of history’s most polarizing figures — a religious president who, for better or worse, called for one of the most controversial wars in history — is perhaps as balanced as the liberal Stone could get it. During the famed State of the Union scene when Bush accused Iraq of building WMDs, spliced live footage from the event shows those who supported it, Democrat and Republican alike.
All the major cabinet players are shown — Colin Powell as the conscience, Dick Cheney, curiously and perhaps deliberately referred to as Vice, and Condoleeza Rice as a syncophant in awe of Bush’s power. W. imagines Bush as reactionary to his own emotional struggles — a former alcoholic dealing with the pressures of being a Bush who couldn’t hold a job until he found politics and posits him as a man who did not act alone despite his efforts to make himself in his own image.
Often hilarious, sometimes poignant and subtle in its ability to bring Bush down to earth without coming apart like other Bush-bashers, W. puts the man in perspective, but what to make of it in the end? Is it an exercise in civility for Stone, a well-known liberal, or a discussion starter meant to set aflame the hearts of Bush-haters the world over? Maybe it will swing said haters to see there’s a man behind the podium. Taken as entertainment, W. asks the question, What if…, and leaves one wondering, What is….
Director: Oliver Stone
Writer: Stanley Weiser
Starring: Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Banks and Ioan Gruffudd
Rating: 3.5 / 5