Beating about the Bush…
Oliver Stone has long held a reputation as something of a confrontational film-maker, so his latest, W., may come as a surprise. Indeed, anyone expecting a brash, no-holds-barred cinematic attack of the much-derided politics of ex-US President George W. Bush will be disappointed, as the film – released while Bush Jr was still clinging on to the White House – is instead a gentle, somewhat sympathetic look at just what turned Bush into the cartoon character ‘Dubya’
Josh Brolin is pitch-perfect as the man himself, capturing the essence of George’s locker room mentality and obviously relishing the opportunity to deliver many of Bush’s most famous gaffs. But there’s also a vulnerability to his portrayal, and so we see a man so desperate to win the approval of his father, George Bush Sr (James Cromwell), that he will go to any lengths to prove himself worthy of the family name. Indeed, as both a hard-drinking, loutish college student and as leader of the free world, Bush is shown to be a character fundamentally unchanged by any of his experiences and still determined to carry out his single-minded right-wing agenda no matter whether the result is a bar-room brawl or all-out warfare.
Ultimately this portrayal of Bush as a bumbling buffoon is lacking any real satirical teeth, particularly as it’s all played out like a straightforward biopic – most likely because Stone, in spire of his directorial bravado, was acutely aware that the president he was profiling was still at the figurehead of the country as his cameras rolled. And although it certainly doesn’t paint Bush in a favourable light, showing him to be desperately unqualified to lead a nation and floundering under the pressure of international politics, some may feel it does not go far enough in pointing the finger at a President, and an administration at large, that took only eight short years to cause bloody havoc on the world stage. 3 stars
Oliver Stone provides a solid commentary, in which he delves further into his own thoughts about Bush and talks about the preparation he undertook before shooting the movie and the artistic license he used for several scenes and characters. Stone also comments on the handful of deleted scenes, while his son Sean directs the uninspiring ‘Dangerous Dynasty: The Bush Presidency’ – basically a series of talking heads casting negative and obvious judgements against the Bush administration. There’s also a look at the making of the film. 3 stars
Stars Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Banks
Director Oliver Stone
Distributor Lionsgate Home Ent.
Format DVD & Blu-ray
Released March 16th