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W. (Full Screen) (2008)

A movie directed by Oliver Stone

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It's Better Than What You've Been Led To Believe

  • Apr 29, 2009
When I first heard about W., my initial reaction was that there was no way it could be a good movie. Oliver Stone is a good director who has sometimes made great films. However, when it comes to the Presidential movies he's made, JFK and NIXON, his record is atrocious. It's also a well known fact that Stone is not a fan of President George W. Bush and Stone isn't really known for keeping his politics out of his movies. I admit that the trailers for the movie piqued my interest, but instead of watching the movie in theatres I waited until the DVD release to watch the movie. I was very surprised by what I saw.

The movie is not told in a linear fashion and instead see-saws back and forth between President Bush's life. It begins in 2002, then flashbacks to 1966, then flashes forward to 2002, then to 1969, then to 2003, etc. Sometimes such a storytelling device is difficult to follow, but it works well in W. The movie basically follows George W. Bush as he goes from being a rowdy, drunken college student with a famous father to being a meandering journeyman traveling from one job and profession into another until he eventually feels led to enter politics. He becomes the governor of Texas and, of course, ultimately the President of the United States. The portrait that is painted is not one of a man with a hidden agenda and a plan to remake the country and world in his image, but instead of a man blessed with gifts who kept screwing up his life, but finally turned it around and decided he wanted to make the world a better place. It presents us with a man who truly wanted to do the right thing and believed in what he did. It's a very human look at our ex-President.

That's not to say the movie doesn't make fun of Bush, because there are times that it does. The movie spends a good deal of time (probably a third all total) showing Bush's drinking problems and womanizing. There are scenes where the President is talking with one of his staff, particularly Vice President Chaney (Richard Dreyfuss) and it's obvious to the audience that the Vice President is just using Bush to meet his own goals and fulfill his own agenda. In scenes such as these, the Bush is presented as a bumpkin who is in over his head. The movie also tries to present the case that everything that George W. Bush did was to earn the approval of his domineering father, George H.W. Bush. Still, despite the negative aspects the movie shows of his personal history and character, overall the movie presents a complex and interesting view of our 43rd President.

Some elements of the film have been dramatically fictionalized, others taken directly (and at times quoted) from history. Some people might be angered by the mixing of history and fiction, but most great biopics do that. No matter how famous people are or how interesting lives they lived, for a movie things have to be condensed and sometimes in order to connect loose ends an anecdote or scene has to be made up.

In my opinion, the main reason that W. is so compelling is because of the performance of Josh Brolin. Brolin wasn't Oliver Stone's first choice to play the title character, but it should have been. Brolin has proved himself time and time again that he is an amazing actor with an incredible amount of range. His performance as President George W. Bush is flawless. Ever mannerism, accent, and quirk of Bush are replicated perfectly. Brolin is matched in his performance by James Cromwell portraying Bush's father George H.W. Bush. Cromwell's characterization is far from the uncanny performance given by Brolin. However, he does do an excellent job of illustrating how the movie sees Bush Sr. as the foil for W. The only other noteworthy performance is that of Toby Jones as Karl Rove. Rove often is presented in a negative light, but just like President George W. Bush, the movie actually paints Rove in a more positive light--instead of an evil mastermind he's just a wunderkid who's really good at number crunching and reading a political landscape.

Richard Dreyfuss has received all kinds of praise for his portrayal as Dick Cheney, but in my opinion it's horrendous. Cheney is definitely the villain of the movie and Dreyfuss seemed to have taken an intense amount of glee in portraying a would-be criminal mastermind. In my opinion the performance is completely over-the-top. The humanization that Brolin, Jones, and to a lesser extent Cromwell bring to their roles is completely ignored by Cheney. It's not that Dreyfuss isn't capable of such a feat, because he is, but he just chose not do so. As for the rest of the cast, all of the other major performances aren't very good and are just characterizations.

I really enjoyed W. It's a much fairer portrait of President George W. Bush than would be expected from Oliver Stone and it's also an entertaining movie. Sadly, however, those on the political left will probably continue to ignore it because it isn't negative enough while those on the political right will ignore it because they've been led to believe it is too negative. If you can put aside your political beliefs and watch the movie for what it is, I believe you'll be pleasantly surprised.

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More W. (2008 movie) reviews
review by . May 16, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
W is mostly vintage Oliver Stone, an outspoken critic of the George W. Bush administration. What we're getting a lot of in W is the old Oliver Stone, the thorn in the right wing's side who fired off Salvador, Platoon, Wall Street, Born on the Fourth of July, JFK, and Nixon instead of a faceless name who in the last ten years has become irrelevant. Although the gun-shy Ollie Stone is still lingering for certain scenes in W, this is mainly the old Vietnam vet charging back into his old familiar turf …
review by . July 31, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
I was a little hesitant to actually watch this movie.  I was definitely not a fan of George W. Bush and his administration while he was in office.  After having watched this film I don't like the man any more than before but I feel a little more empathetic toward him as a person.  If this movie is as accurate a portrayal of the life of Bush as Josh Brolin's acting was, then I would suggest all the haters to watch this and see that really George Bush was a kid trying to please …
review by . March 09, 2009
I never thought I would say this, but I was genuinely charmed and touched by the George W. Bush in Oliver Stone's poignant "W."  Stone and screenwriter Stanley Weiser have crafted a funny, illuminating story of how Bush transformed from college drunkard to U.S. president.  They have successfully humanized a widely hated leader and created a powerfully contemporary movie for an audience that has lived and continues to experience the reign of Bush. The film begins with a few clunky moments …
review by . March 12, 2009
This movie had no business being on the big screen. It was a made-for-tv movie if I've ever seen one.     The acting. Dear Lord, the acting! It's like a bunch of SNL rejects got together and decided to make a movie. No, worse- it's like the MADtv cast did. The actress playing Condi Rice did such an over-the-top imitation, when she spoke I wanted to shoot myself in the ears.... both ears!     Supposedly this movie was "sympathetic" toward the Bush administration …
review by . March 08, 2009
W. Poster
When I started to watch this film I went into having high expectations for Josh Brolins portrayal of good ol' GW and for the most part I wasn't disappointed. What I was disappointed with was the writing. See, Brolin, though he really didn't look anything like Bush, acted him very well and sounded a lot like him. Now without trying to sound like I don't know Bush isn't the brightest guy in the world, it seemed like the writing made Bush out to be dumber than I think he actually is. I mean in this …
review by . February 14, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
W. is a film not many people want to see or even discuss because of the subject matter - the career of the country's most unpopular President, the debacle of the Iraq War, and the decimated economy. There is a certain 'guilt' that comes with criticizing the leader of the country, from both conservatives and liberals: it is not polite to condemn our elected leaders. But now with the Bush legacy daily being pushed into the past (though the after burn of that embarrassing 8 years will never completely …
review by . January 17, 2009
Oliver Stone's latest film, W. is one that will, not surprisingly, attract a lot of controversy. How you feel about it will likely depend on your political views. Me, well, I'm a total flaming liberal, and I found the movie... enjoyable. Great, but not perfect.     The movie might as well be called "George W Lives in His Daddy's Shadow", since most of the movie centers around the feelings of inadequacy that young W feels. We see him going through hazing at his fraternity, running …
review by . January 09, 2009
Oliver Stone's latest film, W. is one that will, not surprisingly, attract a lot of controversy. How you feel about it will likely depend on your political views. Me, well, I'm a total flaming liberal, and I found the movie... enjoyable. Great, but not perfect.     The movie might as well be called "George W Lives in His Daddy's Shadow", since most of the movie centers around the feelings of inadequacy that young W feels. We see him going through hazing at his fraternity, running …
review by . October 17, 2008
posted in Movie Hype
Oliver Stone's "W." is one of the year's most absorbing films, and that's because, as the tagline suggests, it reveals that George W. Bush has been greatly misunderestimated. Watching this film, we see not the forty-third President of the United States, the former Governor of Texas, or even a politician in general. From my perspective, we're being told about an insecure man who reaches too far in an attempt to earn his father's approval. This movie is not a political commentary--it's a character …
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About this movie


Oliver Stone’sW.is similar to his other movies about American presidents (JFK,Nixon), which is to say these films are much more about Stone’s imagined versions of reported events than they are alleged reenactments. As such,W.is Stone’s case for what he sees as the absurdity of George W. Bush’s ascendance to the White House and especially the arrogant blunder of the Iraq War. Josh Brolin is very good as the miscreant son of George H. W. Bush (James Cromwell), Vice President to Ronald Reagan and 41st president of the United States. Adrift in a sea of booze and squandered opportunities, the younger Bush is largely driven by a need for his disapproving father’s love and respect, which never truly arrives. Becoming a hatchet man for Bush Sr.’s administration, “W” (as his wife, Laura--played by Elizabeth Banks--call him) meets Karl Rove (Toby Jones) and heads toward the Texas governorship, despite his father’s preference that the more golden son, Jeb, get all the family’s support in his Florida gubernatorial bid.

Told in broken chronology, W. focuses on Bush’s post-9/11 path to waging a “preventive war” in Iraq despite no hard evidence of weapons of mass destruction to justify it. The major players in W’s administration--Rove, Colin Powell (Jeffrey Wright), Condoleeza Rice (Thandie Newton), and especially Dick Cheney (Richard Dreyfuss)--all participate in closed meetings that look and sound like ...

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Director: Oliver Stone
Genre: Drama, Special Interest
Screen Writer: Stanley Weiser
DVD Release Date: February 10, 2009
Runtime: 129 minutes
Studio: Lions Gate
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