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Friday, 17 October 2008

W. (2008) - Movie Review

Director: Oliver Stone
Starring: Josh Brolin, Richard Dreyfuss, James Cromwell, Toby Jones, Stacy Keach, Thandie Newton, Ioan Gruffudd
Running Time: 131 minutes

This review by John Hiscock of the Telegraph. Cheers to Andy D for forwarding it on.

Oliver Stone has said he wanted to understand, not to hurt, George W Bush and to give a fair and true portrait of the man. And with W, the filmmaker - who stirred a firestorm of controversy with JFK and Nixon - has presented a relatively even-handed and entertaining portrait of the current US president, although it is sure to raise White House hackles, nevertheless.

W covers Bush's life from the age of 21 up to his invasion of Iraq, portraying him as both an arrogant, egotistical bully and a confused, sad and almost tragic figure manipulated by his aides and helplessly unable to come up with an exit strategy for Iraq.

Stone made the film in a quickfire 48 days on a £15 million budget to have it ready for release in the US before the November 4 presidential election, but the production values are excellent and there are no obvious signs of it having been a rush job.

As the title character who is in almost every scene, Josh Brolin has done his homework well and offers a convincing interpretation of George W, effectively capturing his mannerisms and style of speech.

Thoroughly researched and based mainly on available documentation, W opens with a post-9/11 cabinet meeting in the Oval Office.

In a series of flashbacks, we then follow Bush's early days as a hard-drinking, rambunctious womaniser and ne'er-do-well, his conversion, at the age of 40, to born-again Christianity, his sobriety and his career in politics.

Stone and writer Stanley Weiser, who also collaborated on Wall Street, place a great deal of emphasis on the father-son relationship, taking the position that George H Bush (James Cromwell) favoured his younger son Jeb and considered George W the black sheep.

Consequently George W is shown as constantly striving to demonstrate he is stronger than his father, castigating him for not finishing the job and taking out Saddam Hussein during the 1991 Gulf War and for losing the 1992 election by running a poor campaign.

Among the mainly excellent supporting cast, Richard Dreyfuss is downright scary as Richard Cheney, Britain's Toby Jones is outstanding as Karl Rove and Stacy Keach has some good scenes as the preacher who aids W's conversion.

Thandie Newton, with little to do, bears a startling resemblance to Condoleezza Rice and Ioan Gruffudd makes a brief appearance as Tony Blair.

Inevitably, because the story of the George W Bush administration is still being written, the film's ending is ambiguous.

Poignantly, the smug and self-righteous president is seen struggling at a White House press conference to define what he thinks his legacy will be.

'W' will be released in the UK on Nov 7