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W. - DVD Review



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</script></div>{/googleAds}Not sure what Oliver Stone was thinking with W., the George Bush biopic starring Josh Brolin as the embattled 43rd president of the United States. Other than hoping to stir up a little trouble right before election day, it's difficult to understand why. Perhaps that's what the "W" stands for?

A mixture of George W. and Oliver Stone should amount to a deliciously volatile powder keg bigger than all of Texas, but the main problem is that the film is not controversial enough to stoke any long-smoldering fires of animosity, nor is it expository enough to reveal anything we didn't already know. Oliver Stone is more entertaining being Oliver Stone, even if we don't always agree with what he has to say or how he says it. Stone mentions that he and screenwriter Stanley Weiser (Wall Street) had no intention of bringing malice or judgment on the Bush administration, choosing to let the events speak for themselves. Admirable trait for gentlemen, not for filmmakers.

WHaving said that, W. is an entertaining film that's highly watchable (despite its 2 hour+ runtime), and even downright fun at times; with most of the rewards coming from the performances rather than anything Stone has to say. Brolin's portrayal of Bush is truly a thing of beauty (even Oscar worthy), but satisfaction also comes from Richard Dreyfuss's creepily realistic Dick Cheney, and James Cromwell who nearly steals the show with his George Sr.

The filmmakers wisely refrained from taking the film down the SNL-parody road by avoiding exact facial matches, choosing to let voices, mannerisms and personal ticks create a "feel-alike" situation rather than a look-alike one. For the most part, everyone in the cast nails their role, but Thandie Newton's Condeleeza Rice and Jeffrey Wright's Colin Powell seem forced... almost comic-like. Elizabeth Banks plays the shy librarian, Laura whom Jr. meets at a Texas Barbeque. Brolin and Banks strike up some great chemistry together, but once the film's focus switches to Bush's presidency, Laura disappears into the wallpaper.

Swinging back and forth via flashbacks, the story hits the highlights of Bush's life from his hard-drinking days at Yale to the aftermath of the Iraq war. Stone lays out Bush's life in three key acts the young, rebellious, good ol' boy who swills Jack Daniels like most of us drink water, the born-again evangelical who finds Christ with the help of the reverend Earl Wood (Stacy Keach), followed by his ascendance to the presidency. Conspicuously missing are several key historical events - namely 9/11, the Hurricane Katrina tragedy, and the re-election blunder.

Some of the film's most interesting and most revealing moments come from our fly-on-the-wall presence at several key meetings and strategy sessions that shaped the eventual decision to go to war. Bush stubbornly plows headfirst towards conclusions about Saddam's weapons stockpile, despite initial warnings from CIA Director George Tenet (Bruce McGill) and Colin Powell. Through actual footage of congressional war hearings, we catch short glimpses of Hillary Clinton, Ted Kennedy, and Nancy Pelosi. One is left pondering what Saddam Hussein must have been thinking while he watched the evidence of his WMD campaign mount, knowing that he didn't actually have any such weapons.

There's a beautiful look to W. that comes from the camera of Phedon Papamichael who was also Director of Photography on Walk the Line and 3:10 to Yuma. He's as equally smart with his close-up hand-held tight shots as he is when he's racked way out showing us the sun-parched Louisiana countryside that doubles for the president's ranch in Crawford, Texas. Stone has the most fun with (and subsequently most closely approaches the Stone we know and expect) a nearly hokey soundtrack that features such ditties as "Robin Hood", "The Yellow Rose of Texas" and Bob Dylan's "With God On Our Side," which jokingly reminds us that even God doesn't always get things right.

W. is not a terrible movie thanks mainly to its strong cast, but neither is it great. Historical figures, especially presidents, need many years even decades to become ripe for biopic makeover. Quite simply, not enough time has expired for any of this to be suspenseful or educational. And a self-neutered Stone keeps it from finding any lift in controversy.


Component Grades
Movie
DVD
2 stars
3 Stars
DVD Experience
2.5 stars

DVD

DVD Details:

Screen Formats: 1.85:1 Anamorphic

Subtitles: Spanish, English

Language and Sound: Closed Captioned; English: DTS 7.1 HD; French: Dolby Digital 5.1

Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access; director's commentary; deleted scenes; additional featurettes.

Supplements:

Commentary

  • Feature-length commentary track with with Director Oliver Stone

Featurettes

  • Dangerous Dynasty - The Bush Presidency - Created by Sean Stone (Oliver's son) (18:00)
  • DVD-Rom Features: W. Filmmakers' Research and Annotations Guide

Theatrical trailer

Number of Discs: 1

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