Dubya’s life story makes great film

josh.snyder

Film: W.

Director: Oliver Stone

Producers: Bill Block. Moritz Borman

Writer: Stanley Weiser

Starring: Josh Brolin, Richard Dreyfuss, Elizabeth Banks

Runtime: 131 minutes

Rating: PG-13

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Our 43rd president is one of the most polarizing politicians this country has ever seen. He’s experienced highs few presidents ever have, as well as lows many have never dealt with. Still, people bitterly debate not only the man, but his policies, the most controversial being the infamous Bush Doctrine. It’s these two things that lie at the heart of director Oliver Stone’s latest, “W.” What may come as a surprise, however, is how sympathetic Stone is to Bush. And what should come as a surprise to everyone is just how good “W” is.

The set-up is simple: Stone cuts back and forth between Bush’s life and the planning of the invasion of Iraq. We see his early days at Yale, his time bouncing from job to job and his alcohol problem, all the while getting a peek into the process he went through to remove Saddam from power.

People will debate whether or not the events presented in “W” are accurate. And while Bush’s life and political career may be shrouded in mystery, this is likely the closest we’ll get. Still, there’s nothing shocking or controversial that reeks of embellishment, which lends some credibility to the film. That’s not to say there aren’t any surprises — the pressure put on Bush to not be a failure in his father’s eyes is tremendous — but they all seem plausible. Still, it doesn’t seem like 100 percent accuracy was an aim for Stone. Rather, his focus was a fleshed-out portrayal of his subject.

In “W,” the oftentimes distant and sometimes cold President is brought down to a realistic level. He’s a character that anyone can connect to, a surprising feat considering most of us will never know the responsibilities that come with being the most powerful politician in the world. Stone accomplishes this by presenting a picture of Bush that highlights the struggles he went through trying to find his place in society. Of course, Bush’s notorious drinking problem plays a role, as does his sudden transformation from regular partier to devout Christian. Seeing his live gives reason to his decisions in the White House. As someone who’s never been a fan of Bush, the movie didn’t convert me, but it did make me feel sorry for him. And not only does this give the film a sense of humanity but it removes nearly all bias.

Many incorrectly assumed that “W” would make Bush look like a bumbling buffoon. But Stone has delivered probably the least biased look at Bush’s administration. Again, this is accomplished by the attention to detail Stone gives to Bush, as well as Brolin’s amazing portrayal of the sitting president. However, the rest of the cast doesn’t quite get the same treatment. Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleeza Rice, Karl Rove and Colin Powell are made into caricatures. However, Cheney feels genuine thanks to Dreyfuss’ amazing acting abilities. This lack of depth for the supporting cast only slightly detracts from the film, since its main focus is on Bush. Still, the interactions between Cheney and Powell were intriguing and it would have been nice to see more of them.

Even with its longer runtime, “W” doesn’t encompass everything. This isn’t surprising — Stone is known to make long, self-indulgent films, and that seems to be the case here. The filmmaking is strong enough to warrant a longer take, but all we have now is the theatrical cut, which is still great, but has some noticeable holes.

With a presidency so controversial, Bush’s time in the White House makes for a great story. Regardless of your opinion of him, “W” will cast Bush in a different light. And it’s a film you should definitely see.