Interweaving fact and supposition, Oliver Stone's compelling, fascinating "W" plays out like the Godfather in reverse. It is at once a biopic, an anti-war film and a time capsule of a tumultuous period. Like he did with his earlier presidential films, "Nixon" and "JFK", Stone fuses historical truth with a subjective, highly opinionated point of view to create a believable, if skewered kaleidoscope of reality. No one knows what really happened during Bush's presidency in the oval office, but the film turns the major events leading up to the Iraq war in 2003, dramatically edgy.
In selectively choosing both familiar and unfamiliar details about the maligned presidents recent history, Stone does what he does best – gives his audience ample fuel for conspiracy theories. Never content with just the facts, he finds it meaningful to develop reasoning – why for instance, Bush Jr. made the decision to go into politics when he was already a successful baseball team owner. In a film full of numerous imitations of people we've seen countless number of times before in the media, Josh Brolin needs to be singled out for his title performance as being not just the most convincing, but also the least distracting. So effortless is the transformation of the gruff, burly Brolin into the public persona of the person we know as President Bush (complete with numerous "Bushisms"), that thirty minutes into the film, I stopped consciously being aware that I was watching a portrayal by an actor.
Writer Stanley Weiser (who previously worked with Stone in the fantastic "Wall Street") firmly centers everything on the Bush cabinets decision to invade Iraq, while interspersing it with flashbacks from Bush's formative post-college years. It is perhaps because of this that the film suffers, not in its choice of selecting the Iraq war as the pivotal moment of failure, but by trying to portray it as this generations Watergate/Vietnam hybrid. The scenes of a president struggling with his inner demons and a strange case of political Oedipus complex aren't necessarily able to convey the empathy that the writer/director aim for, distracting us from an otherwise competent political narrative. It is commendable though how the team behind this film never resort to any manner of obvious character caricature; they seem convinced that this is how history happened and they serve it to us as facts. This straight faced approach saves the film from being unnecessary or unwelcome. - Faizan Rashid