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Starring: Josh Brolin, James Cromwell, Ellen Burstyn, Elizabeth Banks, Scott Glenn, Toby Jones, Richard Dreyfus, Thandie Newton, Jeffrey Wright

Director: Oliver Stone

Screenplay: Stanley Weiser

Cinematography: Phedon Papamichael

Original Score: Paul Cantelon

Running Time: 130 Mins.

Take a long hard look at the poster above, one of the years best maybe, and certainly one of the years best taglines, if you can’ t make it out it says Anyone can grow up to be president. On the surface, a simple enough statement but when you know this is a film about George W. Bush made by none other than Oliver Stone, the liklihood is you will put  two and two together and expect something, well, controversial at the very least, even if said film isnt much cop….right? 

Well actually no, because the Oliver Stone I speak of is the Oliver Stone right up until he made, and i hate to bring this up, but, Alexander. The over-blown, over-long, over-acted unmitigated disaster that was. It seems to have been a turning point in Stone’s directorial career, no longer was he the clever guy behind some of the greatest films of the last twenty years, no, he was now the hack who’s ego had finally overloaded, resulting in any sense of good or bad being thrown out the window along with pacing, coaxing a good performance out of an actor and worst of all, making any kind of statement about anything, lost, in filmic terms at least!   

Stone followed Alexander with the first film to truly address 9/11. Unsure of what to expect, what we actually got was another film, like Alexander, that didin’ t actually have anything to say! It was Stone’s ode to all those heroic firefighters and policemen that died in the tragedy, acted out in such a ham-fisted way by the likes of Nic Cage and Maria Bello that it was nothing less than cringeworthy, ponderous and at worst dull!

So upon announcement of W. I along with the rest of the filmic world must have breathed a sigh of relief, Stone’s third film about a president, following two other exceptional pieces of work (Nixon and JFK). W. is perfect Stone material, he could ammend on his recent mis-steps and hark back to his latter day masterpieces…

W. is not that film, I have no doubt given the time to properly develope the story and work towards a satisfactory conclusion at leats we could have seen the true Oliver Stone W., this is not THAT film. Whilst certainly not bad, and a slight step up from World Trade Centre it still shares a great many of that films weaknessess, A lack of focus, mediocre direction, poor pacing…the list goes on, the thing that does save it from total ignominy is the calibre of performances on show.

W. begins with a discussion regarding the ‘axis of evil’ and cuts back and forth between the time period of Bush in 1961 right up until 2003 when the was in Iraq really took off. A problem has already presented itself here because as I said before the film never concludes because, quite frankly the story isn’t over. Why Stone couldn’t wait a few years until the dust had settled and a better and much more rounded conclusion could have been made about Bush as a person is mad! Surely the point of the film is to discover why Bush is the man we all loathe/love him for being, the only conclusion the film makes is that he had ‘Daddy Issues’. Big deal, and in this, the film sinks to Hallmark drama levels, which ironically is what it feels closest to more than any other production. Surely the worst criticisation Stone could ever receive!

So, on to the good, the acting. Of all the performances on show four stand out primarily because unlike many of them, they seem like fully rounded characters as opposed to impersonations. Brolin shoule be commended as out of this cornball fiasco he has formed a fantastic characterisation of Bush capturing charm, making him likeable and delivering all the Bushism’s we know and love without making him seem like a total buffoon. Aside from  Brolin are a trio of actors, Wright, Dreyfus and Jones, almost pantomime like in their exteremes. Wright as Colin Powel exudes goodness, while Dreyfus as Chaney is portrayed as the force of evil, much like a Bond villain, guiding Bush to carry out his evil schemes, while Jones as Carl Rove pours poison into Bush’s ear (in the most charming way). This interplay shows what COULD have been truly fantastic but ends up serving as a small nugget of something good in an otherwise run-of-the-mill melodrama.

The lines are drawn from a to be dotting back and forth while we see how it is imagined Bush went about becoming manager of a baseball team, running for Governor Of Texas etc etc yes we may not have known all this but a short trip to wikipedia could have told us all these facts, we learn no more about the man, or why he is THE man.

VERDICT

Anyone can grow up to become president…. it would have been nice to have learnt why, and indeed how, in the case of W., oh well I guess we will never know! This is NOT Oliver Stone’s W., it is just simply W. the George Bush Jr. bio-pic for beginners, not terribly bad just pointless, which is kind of worse, albeit with some very enjoyable performances.

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