Over the years, Oliver Stone has gained a reputation of being controversial. When you look at a list of his directorial endeavours, it’s obvious he does not shy away from tough issues. These are the reasons Josh Brolin’s first response to Stone’s offer was negative. But W. is a fairly balanced look at a man that’s affected the state of the contemporary world.
George W. Bush (Brolin) is one of the most controversial U.S. presidents in history. His life is presented in three stages, each significant to the man he was to become. The first took place during the 1970s, during which he attempted to distance himself from his family’s legacy as much as possible. He indulged in the frat boy lifestyle of secret society at Yale, drinking, gambling and disappointing his father (James Cromwell). After graduation, he proves unable to hold down a job in any industry. However, meeting Laura a.k.a. the future Mrs. Bush (Elizabeth Banks) prompted him to begin turning his life around. His first shot at running for Governor of Texas is a failure; so to gain respect, Bush bought and ran the Texas Rangers. After a spell brought on by excess drinking, Bush put down the bottle, became a born-again Christian and won two-terms as the Governor of Texas. The film then focuses on the period of Bush’s presidency just before he decided to invade Iraq.
The story is less about Bush’s presidency than it is about his relationship with his father. He spent much of his life in his father’s shadow, known in most circles as “Junior” until he paved his own road. Meanwhile his father doted on his brother Jeb, grooming him to be the next political leader. Bush’s personality is more matched by his mother’s, Barbara Bush (Ellen Burstyn), but he was shaped by his detached relationship with his father. Once the opportunity presented itself, he hoped to finish what he felt his father failed to complete in the Gulf War.
Stone includes the moments of bumbling that have become favourites of parody shows but there are many sad moments as well. Some of the most surprising moments reveal Bush was not just a puppet for the agendas of others and General Colin Powell’s (Jeffrey Wright) adamant opposition to the Iraq invasion despite his career-ending statement to the United Nations.
The resemblance of the most of the players to their real-life counterparts is uncanny. In quick glances, Brolin could be mistaken for the real President Bush; the same can be said for Thandie Newton (Condoleeza Rice), Richard Dreyfuss (Dick Cheney) and Wright.
The story is revealing but not captivating. Nonetheless, its timing was necessary to avoid lengthy delays after Bush’s succession and is worth watching to gain a slightly better understanding of the man behind the decisions.