Saturday, 7 March 2009
When it was released in the US a lot of critics took a swing at Oliver Stone's latest film for not sinking the boots into George W. Bush. And it's true that with this biopic Stone takes a much more restrained and even-handed approach to the man responsible for the War on Terror that followers of his previous (and almost always, far more strident) films might have expected. But with Bush dispatched to history's dustbin and his henchmen rapidly becoming a bad dream, this film feels like a much more reasonable take on the man that so recently inspired so much hate and anger. That's not to say this is a glowing portrait by any means, and Josh Brolin as George W Bush gives an amazing performance throughout the three stages of W's life this film focuses on: his hard-drinking days as a Texas layabout and disappointment to his father (James Cromwell), his newly sober, newly religious days in the late 80s where he's slight less of a disappointment to his father, and the days post 9/11 where Bush and his team of henchmen plan out the invasion of Iraq simply because it's what they want to do. The pre-presidential days are informative and mostly straight-forward, with the only real insight being that W really wanted his dad's love. It's the post 9/11 scenes that really bring this film to life, as an all-star cast (Richard Dreyfuss as Cheney; Scott Glenn as Rumsfeld; Jeffrey Wright as Colin Powell; Thandie Newton as Condoleezza Rice) turns this into a mix of a Dr Strangelove black comedy and one of those re-enactments looking inside Hitler's inner circle that SBS are always showing. It's not enough to make this a great film, or even an memorable one, but it does send the occasional chill down the spine.
Anthony Morris (this review appeared in Forte #448)