by Tony Medley
Runtime 129 Minutes.
How anybody could think
this was a sympathetic treatment of George W. Bush is beyond belief.
But, not to forget, most film critics making this dubious claim are
virulent left-wingers and charter members of the “hate Bush” club. It
tells a lot about their feelings about Bush that they could think that
this diatribe is “surprisingly sympathetic.”
There are only two people
who are treated sympathetically in this polemic, Laura Bush (Elizabeth
Banks) and Colin Powell (Jeffrey Wright). All the others are bald
caricatures. Treated with particular venom, other than Bush himself, are
Condi Rice who is played by Thandie Newton as Mrs. Stepinfetchit, and
Karl Rove, who is played by Toby Jones. Jones is made up to look
something like Rove facially, but he’s a far cry from the real Karl.
Newton’s portrayal of the brilliant Rice is particularly malicious. She
ambles around stooped over as if she’s physically impaired and Newton
mouths her speeches as if she’s a mentally impaired hack. If anybody in
the Bush Administration should shoulder blame, it’s Donald Rumsfeld
(Scott Glenn), but he is seen so rarely that if you blink you miss him.
This, despite the fact that he was the face of the Iraq war effort for
As to Powell, he’s a
favorite of the left since he was never a conservative, so his
sympathetic treatment by Stone is to be expected.
Others were clearly cast
for facial resemblance, specifically, Bruce McGill as George Tenet,
Richard Dreyfuss as Dick Cheney, and Dennis Boutsikaris as Paul
Wolfowitz, Deputy Secretary of Defense
There is really no way of
knowing what went on in the private confines of the Administration, who
said what and when, so most of this film devoted to private
conversations, which set forth the premise that Bush manipulated the
Iraq War, is fiction out of writer Stanley Weiser and director Oliver
Stone’s fertile minds.
There are some things in
the movie that are clearly sheer leftwing fantasy, such as President
Bush telling General Tommy Franks (Michael Gaston) to avoid hitting
churches and schools and Franks responding, “We’ll hit the schools at
Given the political bent of
the movie, Brolin gives a pretty effective performance portraying George
W. Bush as a dimwit. Banks is the best thing in the movie (she’s
generally the best thing in every movie she inhabits), capturing the
sweetness and acuity of Bush’s wife. Stone apparently didn’t have the
heart to do the wicked job on Laura that he does on everyone else.
W.’s parents come off as a
mixed bag. His father (James Cromwell, who doesn’t look a thing like
Bush I) is treated sympathetically. For my money, Bush I is the one
person who could have deserved critical treatment. So I guess it’s
no surprise that Oliver apparently likes Bush I, such an ineffective
President was he and such an ungrateful Reagan appointee. He thanked
President Reagan for rescuing his political career by purging all the Reaganites from his Administration when he was elected President on
Reagan’s coattails. Ellen Burstyn looks like Barbara Bush and, of all
the characterizations, hers seemed to me the most accurate, next to
I missed the screening for
this. The only reason I went is that I had seen everything else on a
Saturday night and it was “W.” or nothing. Nothing would have been