'W.' - Bush Jr on DVD

Saturday, 21 March 2009 12:05

As you would expect from an Oliver Stone film, he has assembled an A-List cast to bring this project to life - Josh Brolin as ‘Dubya’ himself, ably supported by the likes of James Cromwell, Thandie Newton, Richard Dreyfuss and Ioan Grufudd,  “W.” is the life story of someone cast as ‘misunderestimated’ by those around him; some critics have called it ‘satire’, others a ‘tragi-comedy’.  To my eyes, it is neither of these.  In fact, considering it has come from an auteur who has given us two other films linked to past American Presidents, “JFK” and “Nixon”, this is probably the least satisfying and focussed of the three.

For those of you just coming in to Planet Earth, “W.” is the story of George W Bush - a man who, we are led to believe, struggled all his life with his personal demons, wrestling with them in his father’s long shadow.  

George W Bush on DVDA Yale graduate (but don’t ask about the “Skull and Bones” society, glossed over in this tale), a ‘transplanted’ son of Texas, a one-time drunk – how indeed did this improbable character transform himself from reprobate and well-known black sheep of the family into following in his father’s footsteps as ‘Leader of the Free World’?

“W.” follows Junior’s journey from Yale frat house to Texas oilfield to The White House and, in the process, reveals the struggles, the achievements and the consequences of both for the man who would become the 43rd President of the United States of America.

“W.” attempts to achieve moments of genuine sympathy for one of the world’s most hated men – it fails.  There is little doubt that he would not have got anywhere near positions of power without his family name – the ‘American Dream’ is built on the belief that anyone born in the USA can become its President.  The fact that someone like ‘Junior’ could push aside other far more qualified candidates to reach the ultimate office is not addressed in this film.  You are left scratching your head wondering how luck and fate could indeed have conspired to allow this million-to-one shot to ‘rule the world’.

Part of the clue to this question is implicit in the movie – Junior’s inexperience and lack of wisdom was exactly what was needed by the puppet masters surrounding him. Vice President Cheney and his cohorts inevitably end up getting what they want in terms of global expansion and home front policies. All while Dubya struggles to get a handle on what is really going on.

The single biggest failure of the project is the side-stepping of the incident that shaped the eight long years of the “W.” administration – the events of 11 September 2001.  Where “JFK” was defined by examining the incident for which that President will be most remembered – his assassination – 9/11 is seen simply a trigger for other vignettes and actions.  Was this a deliberate attempt to suggest that the truth is not yet known about that fateful day, therefore making it conspicuous by its absence?

Maybe if it had been included, it would have overshadowed everything else around it.  As it is, Karl Rove (played by Toby Jones) is shown to be positively Machiavellian, George Bush Senior (James Cromwell) as a failure as a family patriarch, and Dick Cheney (Richard Dreyfuss) as the real power behind the throne. Colin Powell (Jeffrey Wright) is shown to be a flip-flopper (proven by his sudden real-life conversion from Republican to Democrat), and Thandi Newton’s ‘Condi Rice’ is revealed to have the talons we all suspected she had.

Ioan Gruffud has a cameo as Tony Blair – the irony of him also being “Mr Fantastic”, the member of the Fantastic Four who can stretch himself into all sorts of positions, is not lost! There were more scenes filmed involving Blair than featured in the final cut, and you can see one of these extras in the deleted scenes included on the DVD (although they are way off as to why Blair converted to Catholicism - it had nothing to do with Bush Jr, but everything to do with the fact that only a Catholic will be allowed to be the full-time President of the European Union ... watch out for that!).

Brolin makes a believable Junior, but you are left wondering what a world actually expected from a man who to all intents and purposes you wouldn’t trust to run a piss-up in a brewery.  This film is far from the damning indictment it really should have been, or the great revelation of truth that was evident in “JFK”.  A missed opportunity, to turn the spotlight on what really happened from 2000 to 2008.

Extras on this DVD include an Audio Commentary with director Oliver Stone, and featurettes “Dangerous Dynasty: The Bush Presidency” and “No Stranger to Controversy: Oliver Stone's George W Bush”. There are also deleted scenes with commentary by Oliver Stone.  

The DVD is priced £19.99 with the Blu-Ray version at £24.99, or less at www.culttvstore.com

           

 

 

 

 

Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37

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