Oliver Stone’s W.
is similar to his other movies about American presidents (JFK
), which is to say these films are much more about Stone’s imagined versions of reported events than they are alleged reenactments. As such, W.
is Stone’s case for what he sees as the absurdity of George W. Bush’s ascendance to the White House and especially the arrogant blunder of the Iraq War. Josh Brolin is very good as the miscreant son of George H. W. Bush (James Cromwell), Vice President to Ronald Reagan and 41st president of the United States. Adrift in a sea of booze and squandered opportunities, the younger Bush is largely driven by a need for his disapproving father’s love and respect, which never truly arrives. Becoming a hatchet man for Bush Sr.’s administration, “W” (as his wife, Laura--played by Elizabeth Banks--call him) meets Karl Rove (Toby Jones) and heads toward the Texas governorship, despite his father’s preference that the more golden son, Jeb, get all the family’s support in his Florida gubernatorial bid. Told in broken chronology, W.
focuses on Bush’s post-9/11 path to waging a “preventive war” in Iraq despite no hard evidence of weapons of mass destruction to justify it. The major players in W’s administration--Rove, Colin Powell (Jeffrey Wright), Condoleeza Rice (Thandie Newton), and especially Dick Cheney (Richard Dreyfuss)--all participate in closed meetings that look and sound like every investigative account by the New York Times or Bob Woodward about the administration’s inner workings leading up to the war. Much of this is quite fascinating if a little weird (Newton’s performance is indeed strange), but the drama is often powerful, particularly around Powell’s resistance to the rising tide for a supposedly slam-dunk war. A number of the film’s key performances, besides Brolin’s, are very strong, especially Cromwell, Jones, Wright, Dreyfuss and Bruce McGill as George Tenet. --Tom Keogh