4.5 Stars

No one knows controversial films about Presidents better than Oliver Stone. See JFK and Nixon for proof. But he made those with a nice 20 – 30 year cushion between film and subject. How does one tactfully take on the life of not only the sitting president… but a now unpopular one? With a life and presidency fill with controversy, the story of George W. Bush would not be an easy one to bring to film, especially with a few months still left in his term in office. But the decidedly left Oliver Stone did a phenomenal job.

W. is not so much an indictment of Bush as president or as a person, but an exploration of both. Josh Brolin (No Country For Old Men, Goonies) stars as the titular president, and brings a humanity to the character that through the past 8 years, a humanity that we as the American people hadn’t been privy too. He plays the character with respect, careful to stay far away from charicature.

There were certain members of the supporting cast who did unfortunately walk, and subsequently cross, the line of character and charicature. I couldn’t get past the noticably awkward gruff voice Jeffery Wright (Casino Royale) uses for Colin Powell. Or the bizzare make-up on Thandie Newton (Crash) to make her look like Condoleeza Rice.

There were, however, outstanding performances given by the supporting cast. James Cromwell (L.A. Confidential) and Elizabeth Banks (Zack and Miri Make A Porno) as Bush Sr. and Laura Bush, respectively, were the shining stars of the non Brolin variety. With Richard Dreyfus (Jaws) and Scott Glen (Backdraft) as Cheney and Rumsfeld also clocking in outstanding performances. If Brolin doesn’t garner a nomination come award season (and he damn well should), on of these four definitely will.

I think Stone’s own reputation is what did him in with this film. He’s known for being a leftist conspiracy nut, with a flare for style and audacity. But while W. was a genuinely good film. It was mostly a bland entry into the Stone canon.

As I said, it was a damn fine film, but safe and tame. You will walk away from this film respecting Bush as a man, as a person, if not as a politician.


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