• 3 out of 5 stars
  • 3 out of 5 stars
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Like watching an Alison Jackson photo brought to life by a team of ‘Dynasty’ producer Aaron Spelling and ‘The Queen’ writer Peter Morgan , Oliver Stone’s leaving-present for George W Bush is a ramshackle affair that borders on opportunist trash. But there’s something grimly compelling about this maudlin, sporadically funny, dynastic tale of a rich boy made bad that makes up for what Stone’s third and most moderate film about a US president lacks in journalistic rigour, dramatic invention and theoretical novelty. The biggest surprise of all is that Stone’s film isn’t half as wild or as damning as one might expect from the director of ‘JFK’ and ‘Nixon’.

What entertains most is the soapy, greatest-hits approach to Bush’s back-story, alongside committed performances (especially from Josh Brolin as Bush), and an atmosphere of end-of-term ribbing, not least when Bush and his ministers get lost in the heat of his ranch while discussing ‘shock and awe’. That the cast mostly play characters older than themselves – Thandie Newton is 35, while Condoleeza Rice is 53 – only adds to the air of school revue. There are laughs and there are moments that nail the forty-third president (such as the reconstruction of a disastrous press conference which Bush follows by retiring to eat pretzels, watch baseball and swallow non-alcoholic beer); but mostly the film falls between the two, never working fully as comedy and never entirely hitting the bullseye as critical biography. The key pressure points are familiar (booze, professional failures, paternal pressures, God); and the absences suggest restraint (the allegations of drug use, the National Guards service, the 2000 election).

What rescues ‘W.’ from being an extended episode of ‘Dallas’ is Stone’s decision to limit scenes of Bush’s presidency to the invasion of Iraq. We see scenes that compress and present the discussions and pressures that led to war: there’s the neo-con influence of Cheney (Richard Dreyfuss), the militarism of Rumsfeld (Scott Glenn) and the reluctant acquiescence of Colin Powell (Jeffrey Wright). For audiences with short memories, it’s sobering stuff.

Where does that leave Bush? With God and his father. The pop-Oedipal psychology that stresses the importance of a feud with Bush Sr (James Cromwell) and rivalry with his brother is given too much weight; it makes excuses for him. But the Jesus factor is handled more gently. ‘W.’ is neither coruscating nor edifying – but without the benefit of hindsight, it’s probably the best we can hope for.

By: Dave Calhoun


Release details

Release date: Friday November 7 2008
Duration: 129 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Oliver Stone
Screenwriter: Stanley Weiser
Cast: Josh Brolin
Elizabeth Banks
Richard Dreyfuss
Thandie Newton
James Cromwell
Jeffrey Wright
Scott Glenn
Toby Jones
Ioan Gruffudd
Ellen Burstyn
Teresa Cheung
Rob Corddry
Stacy Keach
Jason Ritter

Average User Rating

3.4 / 5

Rating Breakdown

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This is one movie where I agree with most of the critics. "W" was neither that good of a movie nor that bad. It was an attempt at a serious biography of the 43rd President, yet gave into caricature at various points. It was somewhat compelling as a treatment of recent history. One thing that bothered me about this movie was the portrayal of former Vice-President Cheney. His portrayal went beyond the Prince of Darkness caricature and presented a man possibly in need of psychiatric help. I wouldn't think this is the case.

usman khawaja

an affable but immature biopic by mr.stone ,bush might be low on intellect but did he boast about being an aristotle and did he ever show he was a victiom of an oedipal complex . oliver stone does not take this into cosideration and this brings the biopic to a very unconvincing and uneasy juncture where you are left squirming while mr.bush himself squirms in a feotal posture on a 3 mile jog and fights the demons of his taunting dad in virtual reality in the oval office . if not sufficient you have every staff member shown lying through their teeth openly and the script trying to prove as if bush administration had no public support for the iraq war ,while in retrospect we know that before the military debacle in iraq and afghanistan most anglo-americans favoured the war . bush might have his flaws and was the wrong choice but why blame him now after the ecnomic meltdown for something which the whole western civilization brought onto itself[with french and german exceptions], if you are a democracy then learn to blame the people then blame a simple and non pretentious individual for all your own flaws. While all the support actors pretend to be cartoon caricatures [thandi-rice]and this becomes a pantomime satire, one starts wondering when will you see a mature political biopic of an american political figure as this avoids more provocative questions like how mr.bush and his affiliation to born again christians and his familiar affection to oil could have influenced his election as president itself. there is more to it then stone has even scratched in this rather unsatisfactory epic and though josh brolin is adequate ,this is not his best performance and neither a definitive portrait of mr.bush . in fact the movie at time becomes embarassing with it's burlesque manner and tone -even more so then the regime it is trying to blame for an unnecessary war which was approved by all and sundry except united nations . i really did not grasp what was the need of repeating all this still fresh information in a rather superficial epic which is very queasy to bear more so than it is clever . usman khawaja


Yes, it looked like him but where were those fabulous incorrectly pronounced words? Why did it keep flashing back to the past? Confusing. We all know his story so it has to be something very special to be a good film and it wasn't


Fascinating and timely - this balanced portrayal gives insight into the possible drivers from Bush's background that led him to make the choices that he did. GReat supporting cast - well worth a watch, especially now as the Bush administration begins to pack up in advance of 20th January.


Fascinating and timely - this balanced portrayal gives insight into the possible drivers from Bush's background that led him to make the choices that he did. GReat supporting cast - well worth a watch, especially now as the Bush administration begins to pack up in advance of 20th January.


Funny you should ask. Just been to Premiere & mightily disappointing. Nothing new said, just what we already knew. And to be honest not really very good.