W. (2008)

(On DVD, January 2017) I won’t go so far as to say that time can forgive anything—including a wholly unnecessary invasion of a foreign country that ended up killing tens of thousands of people and upsetting the geopolitical balance of an entire region—but barely a week into the Trump administration, I’m far more receptive to a sympathetic portrait of George W. Bush. It took noted agitator Oliver Stone to do it as well, and he didn’t even wait until the end of Bush’s second term to release it. Watching W. ten years later, it’s remarkable how Stone seemed to have been on target even then. For all of the revelations of the past ten years, the events chronicled in W. (hopping in-between a quick biography of Bush’ life, intercut with crucial moments in the ramp up to the 2003 American invasion of Iraq) still ring truthfully, with the personalities of the people involved being immediately recognizable. For those who overdosed on political commentary at the time (myself included), there’s a treat in reactivating those near-forgotten neural pathways and being able to recognize public figures merely from the actors playing them. (Thandie Newton as Condoleeza Rice—woo!) Their portrayal seem harsh but fair—and having Dick Cheney deliver an impromptu presentation on the harsh realities of strategic geopolitics is enough to make one wish for an evil genius rather than an incompetent salesman in the White House. (But I digress … or do I?) Suffice to say that W. may not exonerate Bush from what should weigh on his conscience, but it does humanize a president that was easy to caricature, even though some of the dad/son dynamics in-between Josh Brolin (a fine Bush Jr.) and James Cromwell (a very good Bush Sr.) seem overdone. All I know is that I ended up enjoying W. far more than I expected, and not all of it has to do with validating pointless hours obsessing over American politics.

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