MOVIE REVIEW: W. : Rated A.

October 20, 2008 by
Filed under: Uncategorized 
“THE BEST LAID SCHEMES OF MICE AND MEN OFTEN GO ASTRAY”- “FOR ALL THAT A MAN IS STILL A MAN” Robert Burns. 1759-1796


Director Oliver Stone, Staring Josh Brolin as George Bush and Richard Dreyfus as
Dick Cheney. James Cromwell plays Bush Senior.
Other actors play the usual suspects:

Laura BushElizabeth Banks
Barbara BushEllen Burstyn
Donald RumsfeldScott Glenn
Karl RoveToby Jones
Earle Hudd – Stacy Keach
George Tenet – Bruce McGill
Condi Rice – Thandie Newton
Colin PowellJeffrey Wright
Tony Blair – Ioan Gruffudd
Screenplay by Stanley Weiser.

Josh Brolin has caught the essence of George W. Bush and he will probability be nominated for an Academy Award for his performance. The film, its director and other supporting persons may well be also.

The focus of the drama is the relationship between father and son. Bush Sr. was always unimpressed by George Jr.’s abilities and accomplishments and with held his approval. This was with good measure since the young Bush spent his youth chasing wine, women and song. His accomplishments had been things his father had been able to procure for him such as entrance to prestigious schools and jobs that never worked out.

BUSH RUNNING FOR CONGRESS.

Ever the cocky young man full of
himself he runs for Congress and meets Laura Welch, a young librarian, romances and marries her.

While devoted to her husband she is not afraid to tell him like it is. However the movie is not focused on their marriage or her influence on him. (She reputedly told him the marriage was over if he didn’t stop drinking. This not mentioned in the film, if true.) The motivating force of W.’s life is to win his fathers approval, although in the early years he seems to be trying exorcise this compulsion by doing everything he could to alienate him.

The turning point or points in the movie are when Bush decides to give up drinking and embrace the Fundamentalist Christian Church. Later this is his voter base. George Sr. refuses to court the Fundamentalists by seeding his speeches with religious code words signifying he accepts the tenets of Fundamentalist Christianity even it means votes in his first Presidential race as urged by W.

Another major turning point in George Jr.’s life is his “engagement” with Karl Rove who engineers his election as Governor of Texas and then President of the United States.

Bush has the common touch and through out the movie we see evidence of this beginning at Yale when he can recite all his fraternity brother’s names and nick names during an initiation ritual. Bush sees himself as a good old boy from Texas and that’s how he conducts himself as an individual and a politician. This gives him the ability to bond with many average voters.

George Sr. is played as a patrician Easterner who became a Texas Oilman and politician.

In office Bush is the “decider” and the film tells us that Bush is his own man who makes his own decisions after hearing the facts and arguments from his staff. Even in the case of Cheney he admonishes him not to talk in cabinet meetings without being asked for his view and that he is reminded that W. makes the decisions. Thus dispensing with the view that Cheney is the dark power in control of the younger Bush.

The hard fact there were no WMD in Iraq is brought home to Bush after the invasion. No one on his immediate staff is willing to take the responsibility for not making it clear to him before the invasion that the war was based on belief and guess work as to the existence of WMD in Iraq.


OLIVER STONE DIRECTING THE WAR ROOM SCENE.

Finally a lower level bureaucrat is pushed forward to tell him the truth that it was believed Saddam had WMD because he never denied that he didn’t have them. Further Condoleezza Rice’s office was notified of the fact that there was no hard evidence and the bureaucrat thought it had been conveyed to the President. Rice, played by Thandie Newton in a lukewarm fashion, denies she was aware of the fact there was no solid evidence of WMD before the invasion and if her office received a report on this fact then it was one of thousands and it was overlooked. (This is the same reason she gave for ignoring warninigs about the imminence of 9/11. This is not in the film.)

The lower level bureaucrat resigns. However Condi, National Security Adviser, and George Tenet, head of the CIA, remain in government. Thus there is no accountability at a senior level and Bush lets his personal loyalty to his staff, at this crucial juncture, prevent him from making needed cabinet and personal changes. This good old boy, blind loyalty maybe his Achilles heel. Another is his failure to learn from the mistake of relying on the advice of persons with their own agendas which may be different from his. The same deception was played on Kennedy in the Bay of Pigs fiasco. But he had Bobby to see that heads rolled.

The acting by Brolin, Dreyfus and Cromwell is excellent but some of the supporting actors are not as convincing in their roles. However this does not detract substantially from the credibility of the film.

George Bush is seen as an undisciplined, good time seeking, young man of privilege who is carried forth by his own ambitions, family connections and drive to better George Sr.’s accomplishments and gain his approval first as Governor of Texas. However he remains an immature, naive and unsophisticated man even as President. He surrounds himself with advisers and supporters who are at best second rate people for the job at hand or as in the case of Colin Powell not listened to and thus have little effect on the decisions of state; particularly the major one: the decision to go to war in Iraq.

However Bush is not demonized in the film but portrayed as man in over his head, relying on advisers lacking in moral turpitude and political sophistication. Because of his relationship with his father he is unable and unwilling to go to him for advice and counseling. George Sr. could have been the Bobby Kennedy of his son’s administration, at least as an impartial outsider, and as a result George Jr. lost his way not just on Iraq but in many other ways also. The film infers that George Sr. had Brent Scowcroft, his National Security Advisor, write an op-ed article against the invasion of Iraq. This was ignored by W. and his neo-con advisors who went to war anyway.

Oliver Stone states all the events shown in the film actually took place and are documented by reliable sources. However much of the dialogue was created by script writer Stanley Weiser and Stone from what is known or must have been said.

This film was a fascinating depiction of George W. Bush and his coterie. However this film must be seen as an elegant argument as to what happened and posits a theory as to why. Thus whether you believe the father /son relationship is the motivatig force in W.s life or not this film should be viewed as a serious history along with the daily news and concurrent books on the subject.

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