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W. (Full Screen) (2008)

A movie directed by Oliver Stone

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The Dubya

  • May 16, 2011
Rating:
+4
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 in full combat regalia and a blazing rifle. Stone must have set some kind of record by releasing W just two months BEFORE the president whose life the movie revolves around hears the final bell of his second term sound.

I don't like George W. Bush. My reasons for my dislike go beyond the obvious and into a more personal realm because the man made a national fiasco out of throwing a (now former) friend of mine into jail, forcing him to take a plea bargain which would give him "only" nine years and knock down his official charge from something which was really quite lofty, totally bogus, and had no evidence to back it up. Yeah, I'm really, REALLY p*ssed. I saw W in the hopes that it would let me expound the virtues of Stone completely washing out the whole administration. While there are parts like that, it doesn't tell the whole story.

Actually, I take that back. W DOES tell the whole story of George W. Bush, exempting everything that occurred before his college days. But W ultimately doesn't portray Dubya as the snake, schemer, and outright deliberate liar I would really like him to be. It instead portrays him as an average joe who happened to be born with a silver spoon in his mouth and no idea what to do with himself. Josh Brolin does a dead-on impersonation of our country's clueless Commander-in-Chief, and instead of giving us a calculating politician who plans deliberate moves to wreck the Constitution, Brolin presents an overwhelmed bumbler. It will be a travesty if Brolin doesn't walk away with the Oscar for Best Actor. He gives us a George W. Bush who is human, constantly pining for his father's approval. And when he finally earns it, he manages to squander it because God tells him to run for president and save Iraq. Brolin's performance almost makes me feel bad for Dubya.

It's Bush's cabinet which shows the cold politicians, and Bush just kind of going along with their every whim. While Colin Powell has a sympathetic side, even he gets pressured into doing whatever the Presidential Cabinet wants. The moments before the invasion of Iraq are the most intense in the movie, and they're the scenes where Oliver Stone goes into full attack-dog mode. Karl Rove and Dick Cheney are displayed in the Darth Vader images which have become so popular with the left. Condaleeza Rice is more or less just there.

W takes the scene flash approach to telling Bush Junior's story. Instead of being told along a timeline starting with Bush's frat boy days and going along to the Mission Accomplished display and ending with a short epilogue, W jumps around years. Roger Ebert said W takes place in three sections, but it takes place basically in two sections: The past and the present. This doesn't do anything to enhance the story, but it's not detrimental, either. The present skips around the various points of the administration during the war, and this is where details are left out. Stone mentions 9-11 only once - he got that out of the way when he made World Trade Center - and the 2000 election is surprisingly left out altogether. And ultraleftist nutcases who believe those ridiculous conspiracy theories about the administration actually planning 9-11 will be disappointed because Stone, whose JFK is completely about a conspiracy behind the Kennedy assassination, is smart enough to keep those out too. (Note: Much as I hate this administration, I do not believe they had anything to do with 9-11.)

George W. Bush is seen by many people as a regular joe who people would like to sit down and have a beer with. That portrayal is even mentioned in W during the Texas gubernatorial election. While Brolin's performance is a major reason for Bush's humanization, it helps that the low points in Bush's life are shown. One of the major points Bush's life was being born again, and the movie plays the moment as such. The post-conversion scenes are where Stone lets up the most. During the post-conversion flashbacks, we get to watch and genuinely believe that George W. Bush did become a better person through finding God. He even appears to get a little bit smarter and show a bit more ambition, though the line to delusion is crossed when he starts talking about how God wanted him to run for President. (Even the Westboro Baptist Church, those insane, violent fanatics behind godhatesfags.com, have officially called Dubya a false prophet.) I can safely say I liked the George W. Bush of W. He even likes baseball and dreams of being the commissioner, a job which I doubt he would screw up. There's even a metaphorical scene where Dubya stands alone on an empty baseball diamond.

Stone and writer Stanley Weiser don't trail off the Iraq war, which is probably Stone's chief beef with the administration. Though the movie is shorter and probably more engaging for it, I was shocked that so many other details of the administration were axed. There's simply a lot to use against Bush: The economic crash, the Constitutional Amendment defining marriage, the ID debate, basically a massive slew of things Bush believes were oredered by God, and the immigration wall. I will even call the war the focal point of the movie, because it's what truly started the anti-Bush tide. Another noteworthy feature of the script is that it works many of Bush's quotes, affrontal to the English language, into casual conversation instead of speeches.

W may be the best movie of the year. It gives us a human, nuanced portrayal of Bush, and while Stone fires away like the old days, he actually lets up for a few moments, which makes Bush more interesting, three-dimensional, relatable, and even likable. The ultimate result is the life of a guy who just craved his father's approval and then squandered it for the approval of a higher being.

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May 16, 2011
quite an informative review, detailed and while I have to say that I intentionally dodged this movie, I know there will be a time when I may feel like watching it. Your write up may be the last nudge I need to see this one. Great work! Bruce Campbell rules!
May 16, 2011
Hail to the King, baby!
 
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More W. (2008 movie) reviews
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 . April 29, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
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 …
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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Nicholas Croston ()
Ranked #19
Hi! I'm here in part to plug my writing and let everyone know that I'm trying to take my work commercial.      Now, what about me? Well, obviously I like to write. I'm … more
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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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