There he goes again. Oliver Stone has made another movie about an old president that nobody cares about anymore.
Wait. George W Bush is actually still in office! It’s easy to forget. He has got to be the lamest lame duck since Herbert Hoover in 1932. His own party’s presidential candidate wants nothing to do with him and is going to lose because of him.
Unlike “Nixon,” a brilliant film that arrived in theaters about 20 years too late, “W” is right on time. This is the perfect opportunity to reevaluate a president who has been demonized to the point where people may forget that he is actually a living, breathing human being just like us.
People expecting “W” to be a liberal hatchet job will be sorely disappointed. Oliver Stone is way too interesting a filmmaker to resort to repeating the same criticisms that The Washington Post and The Daily Show have been spouting for eight years.
“W” paints the president as a victim of a legacy that he could not escape. The Bush dynasty is one of the oldest and most powerful in American history. Few men were born with bluer blood than George W Bush.
The film shows George H W Bush (James Cromwell) as a cold, uncaring aristocrat who didn’t offer his children any affection or emotional support. The enormous success and effortless dignity of George Bush Sr cast a suffocating shadow over his eldest son and namesake.
W (Josh Brolin) was blessed with the money and power to do whatever he wanted, but cursed with the drive to accomplish big things in order to live up to his father’s expectations. George W Bush is a classic victim of circumstance: a young Prince pushed to become King even though he clearly isn’t suited for the job.
W didn’t just inherit his father’s name, but also his circle of friends. I am sure we can all agree with Stone’s assertion that President Bush wasn’t the primary architect of his administration’s foolhardy Iraq War policy.
Stone points the finger at W’s advisors, particularly Dick Cheney, for orchestrating the mess that we made in Mesopotamia. Colin Powell, meanwhile, is made out to be a spineless sage who predicated the failure of the Iraq War but went along with the plan, anyway.
Oliver Stone does a fine job of explaining George W Bush’s personality: his strengths, his weaknesses, and his demons. I agree with Stone’s argument that a man’s unbridled ambition is the result of the failure of his parents to give him unconditional love.
Stone’s most surprising accomplishment is that he managed to edit “W” down to a sensible, focused two hours. It’s the director’s shortest movie in ages, and his most entertaining.
“W” is one of the best films of 2008. It’s engrossing, witty, and thought-provoking. I recommend it for everyone except committed Bush-haters who would only be satisfied with a movie about the president if the actor playing him was literally wearing devil horns.