Oliver Stone seems to have been neutered of late. Since the 43rd President took office he's made Comandante, a fairly radical film about his meetings with Fidel Castro where he said 'that Cuban leader ain't half as evil as everyone says'. Next he made Alexander, only likely to offend very, very old Macedonians who don't like being called gay. Then came World Trade Centre, a film so politically tame it ended up being the big screen equivelant of Little Timmy being stuck down a well. But now with W, surely the gloves are off and Olly Stone is back, kicking it to the man?
A biopic of sorts W jumps around over George Bush Jrs (Josh Brolin) life tracing his misspent youth and lack of direction and stopping for a large time on 2002 and the lead up to the Iraq war. In the mis-spent youth days we see him drinking, fighting and looking for affirmation of his life from daddy (James Cromwell). In the Iraq war years we see him sober (after finding religion), starting wars and looking for affirmation of his life from daddy. With hardly any mention of dirty trick campaigns to win the governership of Texas, Florida vote rigging and September 11th, W is not the leftie, Bush-baiting, 'kick him while he's down' film most (including myself) were expecting, or hoping for.
Instead its a Tragedy of Shakespearean depth of a man who stumbled into the most powerful seat on earth. (Sadly in our current climate we may have to take a bad Disney movie over Shakespeare for the 45th president biopic). Portrayed by Josh Brolin as a character first, an impersonation second, Georgie is the victim of circumstance. While his Bushism ("they misunderestimated me") are written into the script for a cheap laugh there isn't the attack on the inherent wrongness of his actions. While I'm not looking for shots of W cackling over pictures of dead Iraq children it seems the director has let him off the hook for his part in the troubles his administration has brought on the world. Instead of villifying Bush, its Cheney (Richard Dreyfuss) and Karl Rove (Toby Jones) who get the bad guy roles, while Colin Powell (Jeffrey Wright) gets to be the American conscience for the second time in two weeks.
So in Oliver Stones world George W Bush isn't the hero or the villain. He can be intelligent, charming, driven, funny, self deprecating, warm, a dreamer. He's also inarticulate, hot headed, an alcoholic, naive, troubled, war-mongerer who has some severe 'issues with pops' but you're left with the feeling at the end that Ge-O is someone you would go and have a beer with. And isn't that the reason he was elected twice. Its a troubling viewpoint but one which leaves me with the distinct impression that Oliver Stones main target for ridicule isn't Bush himself but the American public. A nation dumb enough to vote someone into the most powerful position in the world because he's a regular Joe. I suppose we'll see tonight whether the 'Joe strategy' works again.