Sunday, January 25, 2009


W.; Drama, USA, 2008; D: Oliver Stone, S: Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Banks, James Cromwell, Ellen Burstyn, Richard Dreyfuss, Jeffrey Wright, Thandie Newton, Toby Jones

As US president George W. Bush is preparing his "axis of evil" speech after 9/11, he remembers his life: how he passed through a bizarre Yale initiation, became an alcoholic, didn't want to keep his job in the oil industry and wanted to work something with baseball, met his future wife Laura and failed when he ran for Congress in Texas. But then he became a very religious person and admired his dad for winning in the Gulf War and becoming the US president. Now, as president himself, Bush is influenced by Dick Cheney into invading Iraq again and "finishing the job" his father should have, even though the UN inspectors didn't find a single clue of Saddam Hussein possessing weapons of mass destruction. The War in Iraq ultimately becomes Bush's biggest failure.

It's interesting to mention that the German TV station Pro 7 "mourned" George W. Bush's departure from the White House by broadcasting Oliver Stone's 2008 biopic "W" on January 23 2009, a record premiere just a few months after the movie was actually shown in theaters. That fact is unusual, but Bush's whole life and career were unusual, which is why Stone's decision to make a biopic about the most unpopular American president in the last 100 years seems like a natural and brave choice. Even though Stone himself wasn't a big fan of his, he made the right choice to stay neutral and show both sides of his protagonist, good and bad: some scenes where he tries to impress his dad, George Bush senior, and tries to follow his footsteps, make him seem really human. Yet Stone directed the whole film without any passion or style, which is why it seems like any given average TV biopic. Also, it becomes obvious pretty fast that "W.'s" biggest problem is the choice of events from Bush's life: the screenplay is all over the place, rushing and cramming as many details as it can, but it's never focused on bringing any order into it. Frankly, so many things from Bush's life are missing that many viewers will feel cheated, and it seems the movie should have needed at least 4 hours to cower everything the right way. For instance, the Iraqi War is just shown for 5 minutes towards the end, and is cowered as superficially as many other events in the film.

As a biopic, "W" is very measured and luckily free from pretentious touches, yet obviously too lukewarm to lift itself above anything more than a solid achievement. The real highlights are the actors: Richard Dreyfuss is brilliant as Dick Cheney, especially in one crazy sequence - that was obviously invented by the screenwriter - where he observes the map of Iraq and tells the whole Bush administration his strategic plan to "secure enough oil for America" in such a deranged and scary way that Bush tells him to "calm down" because he will "scare the public" with such talk. Upon that Cheney tells him: "You can sell that war. I can't". The black humor is abundant in the film. Josh Brolin is good as Bush: he mimics his movements and accent, but, just like every biography based on a real person, the actor has to look like the person he or she is playing, and here it's obvious Brolin doesn't look quite like Bush. From some certain angles he nails him, but on numerous occasions it's obvious his jaw is too big for Bush. Thandie Newton is also great as Condoleezza Rice. "W" is a solid achievement, yet it's one of those films that are going without not going at all.


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