W. (**1/2) - Starring Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Banks, James Cromwell, Richard Dreyfuss, Jeffrey Wright, Thandie Newton, Ellen Burstyn, Scott Glenn, Toby Jones, Bruce McGill, Ioan Gruffudd, Stacy Keach, Rob Cordrry, Colin Hanks, Jesse Bradford, Noah Wyle, Marley Shelton, Dennis Boutsikaris and Michael Gaston.
Directed by Oliver Stone.
I know Oliver Stone wanted to catch the moment and get this movie out before Dubya left office, but this movie would have been better served if he'd waited a few years and let some history settle, then give a more rounded perspective to Bush's story. Stone's JFK was full of paranoid conspiracies, but it had an urgency to it 28 years after that president's death. Stone's Nixon was able to give that president a full Shakespearean scope to his life, his rise and fall. Stone's W. just feels rushed and incomplete. It is not without its insights, but it feels like two acts to a three-act story, with a large cast that mostly goes to waste.
I will grant Stone artistic license with some of the history and just roll with what he's presented. This movie is able to convey the Dubya charm that got him elected, and some of the boneheadedness that sunk him in his second term. Bush never comes across as stupid; he's just not the most articulate guy, and if anything, he can be too trusting. I felt for him when all his advisors, many of whom served his father, were on board for the Iraq war, but then when no weapons of mass destruction were found, no one had answers for him.
It is a bit odd that his entire life pretty much boils down to daddy issues, with James Cromwell playing a sterner George H.W. than we're used to seeing. Thandie Newton comes off as a bizarre SNL caricature of Condi Rice, and Jeffrey Wright's Colin Powell is a mere martyr. Richard Dreyfuss's Dick Cheney lacks a white cat to stroke when he talks about establishing an empire in the Middle East.
Brolin, however, eventually disappears into the role. Between this, Milk and No Country for Old Men, Brolin's really able to show some range, and the ability to inhabit different characters. And if it wasn't for Heath Ledger, I'd say this was Brolin's year to get some gold.