VideoVista
-MONTHLY FILM & TV REVIEW-


SF, fantasy, horror, mystery website
illustrated SF and general satire
music reviews
action movie heroines
helicopters in movies and TV
VideoVista is published by PIGASUS Press
 
 
May 2009 SITE MAP   SEARCH

W (dubya)
cast: Josh Brolin, Toby Jones, James Cromwell, Richard Dreyfuss, and Scott Glenn

director: Oliver Stone

124 minutes (15) 2008
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Lions Gate DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 6/10
reviewed by Ian Sales
Given the fallout from his two terms as president of the United States of America, George Walker Bush must have been either monumentally stupid or deeply corrupt, or perhaps both... So to depict him as an amiable idiot in a film story of his life feels like history passing far too light a sentence on him. While Oliver Stone's W does make it clear that Bush was supremely unsuited for the presidency, it fails to provide any answers for his baffling presence in the White House for eight years. But then Stone has never been good with answers. Or history, for that matter - see JFK. Or The Doors, which Ray Manzarek has said was inaccurate.

As a young man, George Walker Bush (Josh Brolin) was useless and a drunkard. He failed at every career he attempted - and W shows several of them. He was the failure of the family and as a result his relationship with his father, George Herbert Walker Bush (James Cromwell), was difficult. He tried for Congress in 1978, but lost to Democrat Kent Hance. After his defeat, Bush vowed he would never be "out-Texaned and out-Christianed" again. It's a telling admission. Because that is precisely what Bush did...

To claim that Bush attended AA and became a born-again Christian as a cynical move to win Texan votes implies a level of intelligence not on display in his earlier careers. Whatever his true motives, it worked, and he won the election for Governor of Texas in 1994. W does not mention his campaign's smear tactics against the Democrat incumbent, nor his promise to allow Texans to carry concealed weapons. Both of which arguably won him the election. After two successful terms as Governor of Texas - Stone shows Bush wheeler-dealing while in office, although to be fair he was effective in several areas, such as education - Bush chose to run for the presidential ticket. The rest, as they say, is history.

The film is structured as flashbacks leading up to Bush's election as president - no mention, incidentally, of the 'hanging chads' or the allegations surrounding the count in Florida during the 2000 election - interspersed with scenes from Bush's presidency. The latter focus, chiefly, on the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq. The scriptwriter, Stanley Weiser, has managed to get many of Bush's malapropisms into the films - "they have misunderestimated me" and "is the childrens learning," for example - although not necessarily at the time at which the real Bush spoke them.

Bush's cabinet play prominent roles - a rogues' gallery, Stone would have us believe, second only to Goering, Goebbels, Himmler, et al. Condoleeza Rice is boring, pedantic and patronising; Colin Powell is slow on the uptake; Donald Rumsfeld is evil; Karl Rove is an amoral genius; and Dick Cheney is a real nasty piece of work. It's clear where the real brains were in Bush's administration; it is not clear how and why they were allowed to do what they did. Stone makes no effort to explain it. Puzzlingly, Stone also portrays Bush as a man who appears mostly to be in control of what's happening - and yet Bush clearly couldn't even control what came out of his own mouth. He can't be a village idiot and a successful leader of the most powerful nation on the planet. The two are, you would think, mutually exclusive.

I suspect W is one of those projects which looked like a good idea on paper. But if it's a satire, then it has all the bite of toothless nonagenarian. Given Stone's liberal politics, it's unlikely the film is intended as an apologia. Perhaps it's meant as a counter to the Bushian propaganda that Republican spin doctors will no doubt churn out in order to safeguard Bush's place in history. If it is, then it's a weak broadside. In the battle to decide how Bush goes down in the history books, it's a disappointingly damp squib. But then Republicans always had the better strategy for debate - speak loudly, speak often, speak everywhere, speak their 'version' of the truth.

It's not uncommon to come away from a Hollywood film wondering why it was made. The back-catalogue of Michael Bay and Uwe Boll provides plenty of examples. But it's a different 'Why?' you have to ask yourself after watching W. Because W is a well-made and entertaining film. It's even a little educational in parts. But you have to wonder why it exists, why someone in an office on a back-lot somewhere in Hollywood thought it might be a good idea. Stone had already had one go at a president - Nixon in 1995 - and he came out of that worse than Nixon himself did.

Perhaps that's why W exists. Perhaps it's the backlash from Nixon. Everyone hates Nixon the man, but they were upset when Stone "defamed and degraded" him in his film. So it was time for a different movie pitch: no 'Mr President as Mephisto', instead it's 'Mr President as Springtime for Hitler'...
NEXT

Did you find this review helpful? Any comments are always welcome!
Please support VideoVista, buy stuff online using these links -
Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.com

copyright © 2001 - 2009 VideoVista