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'W' Movie Review

About.com Rating 3 Star Rating
User Rating 3 Star Rating (1 Review)


'W' Movie Review

Josh Brolin and Noah Wyle in 'W.'

© Lionsgate
Oliver Stone returns to the incredibly complex world of politics and politicians with W, an examination of the 43rd President of the United States: George Walker Bush. While Stone's previous excursions were done after the President in question was no longer in office – Richard Nixon in Nixon and John F Kennedy in JFK – the filmmaker rushed into production on W in order to ensure it was in theaters while President Bush was Commander in Chief and prior to the 2008 Presidential election.
The plan obviously was to try and sway moviegoers by exposing W's flaws, albeit in as fair and balanced a manner as possible. However, W isn't the film it aspires to be. There's plenty of fodder out there for a whole series of films on George W Bush's life, but Stone's W plays around at the edge of the story too much.

Maybe it's the fact this one was done with such a quick turnaround or maybe it's because Stone's attempting to walk a fine line and not totally alienate one political group or the other. Whatever the cause, W is far below the quality of either JFK or Nixon. W is neither the hard-hitting insightful piece most believed Stone was crafting nor is it 'the throw Bush under the train' critical analysis others predicted. Instead it's a jumbled story with some actors playing it straight by the book while others have taken the parody route. More boring than informing, W doesn't live up to the hype and isn't one of Stone's better efforts.

The Story

Josh Brolin as President George W Bush and Elizabeth Banks as Laura Bush.

© Lionsgate
Leaping back and forth through time, W chronicles how a hard-partying, womanizing rich kid went from being a guy who couldn't/wouldn't hold down a job to the co-owner of a Major League Baseball team to the 43rd US President. Bush is arrested, spends lots of times drunk as a skunk, and has such a strained relationship with his father it's a wonder the younger Bush ever wanted to follow in George Herbert Walker Bush's footsteps. But in the film and in life, W found his way out from the bottom of a liquor bottle to the top of the American political pile. How it happened, how this man who walked away from jobs his father set up for him and who had no real experience in the political arena other than a powerful last name managed to achieve America's highest office, is only very, very basically spelled out in W.

The meat of the film, the only time when it's actually a captivating drama and not just one that hints at things happening, is when W is surrounded by his advisors. Then the gigantic elephant in the middle of the room, the one you know Stone's aching to shine the light on, is actually exposed for all to see. W's re-creation of the meetings held prior to America's invasion of Iraq, the President's unsuccessful phone calls to some world leaders who didn't see things his way, his homey meeting with England's Tony Blair, and the meetings held after America and its allies knocked Saddam Hussein out of power provide the juice that makes W flow. When the focus is off those events, W loses its momentum and its way.

The Cast

Josh Brolin just gets better with age. He is absolutely phenomenal as Bush, both in his younger, wilder years and as the 43rd President. As W, Brolin fumbles his way through a press conference, takes lettuce out of his sandwich following a hypothetical question about disease, and seems gleeful over the fact a briefing's only three pages in length. It's an amazing performance in that even though American audiences are fully aware of the real man's appearance, mannerisms, and personality, Brolin is Bush on the screen. W could possibly be Brolin's finest performance to date, and maybe the best he'll ever give.

James Cromwell as George Herbert Walker Bush and Elizabeth Banks as Laura Bush are the standouts in a sea of familiar faces in supporting roles. Toby Jones does a great job digging into Karl Rove, Scott Glenn makes for a convincing Donald Rumsfeld, Jeffrey Wright is terrific as Colin Powell, and Richard Dreyfuss looks and acts just like VP Dick Cheney. The only one who just doesn't work in their role is Thandie Newton as Condoleezza Rice. I normally look forward to seeing Newton in films, but wow, there's something so off about her take on Rice that it's not only distracting but also kind of creepy. W's Rice is a hobbit-ish, squeaky-voiced sycophant who sticks out like a sore thumb. Why did Stone prompt Newton, the only woman other than the wives in the entire film, to go this direction with Rice? There's just no logic behind his decision.

'W' Poster

© Lionsgate
The Bottom Line:

If there's one reason to see W it's for Brolin's performance. It's not because of what the film may teach you. If you've followed Bush's rise to power there's really nothing new here to see. And W isn't particularly well directed or written (there's a scene with some rich woman stepping on a corn cob that I still have no idea the significance of). W does let audiences see some pretty ugly warts but it doesn't go anywhere. It's a flat production that evokes no emotional or intellectual response. Oliver Stone pushed to get this out in front of audiences quickly and in doing so he seems to have lost sight of the big picture.


W was directed by Oliver Stone and is rated PG-13 for language including sexual references, some alcohol abuse, smoking and brief disturbing war images.

Theatrical Release Date: October 17, 2008

User Reviews

Reviews for this section have been closed.

 3 out of 5
W is not for winner, Member murrman41

Spot on review. I expected much more from the movie and really wanted more than a few laughs. Sad to say ""W"" did not Wow me. The acting was good but the direction and storyline was not and I expected much more from Stone. Brolin was terrific though and would like to see him and Elizabeth Banks in more movies.

14 out of 16 people found this helpful.

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