W, Oliver’s Stone’s latest film based on the life of George W Bush, is a disappointingly conservative effort, writes Paul Fennessy.
Once regarded as somewhat of an agent provocateur, Oliver Stone (JFK, Platoon) has confounded critics with his new film, a surprisingly straightforward biography of George W. Bush.
The story covers both the crucial moments of Bush’s presidency, along with his earlier life, beginning at the point of his alcohol fuelled college years. The audience are treated to scenes of a young, impetuous Bush (played by the excellent Josh Brolin) being lambasted by his father for committing a series of misdemeanours.
In conjunction with these instances of youthful folly, we get insights into his presidency which are both factual and presumably, fictional. Consequently, as well as vowing to put a stop to Saddam Hussein “misunderestimating him”, the viewer also learns that Bush decides to give up sweets, as “a personal sacrifice” to the troops in Iraq.
Despite its many criticisms of the President, the suspicion lingers that the movie is nowhere near as enlightening or satirical as it could have been.
After all, the suggestion that George Bush is not the brightest person in the world is hardly a novel concept. Stone, who was a classmate of Bush’s at Yale, has been rather restrained in his portrayal, despite the director’s staunchly leftist leanings.
Bush is painted as a Lear-esque figure, allowing his associates to convince him that waging war in Iraq is the correct decision, while ignoring the pleas of Colin Powell and the UN. His team of advisors are depicted as the true villains, as they emphasise the benefits which invading Iraq will deliver, namely the freedom to control the oil market.
Therefore, the only reason as why the film was conceived in the first place was to seemingly propagate a liberal argument which was used to the point of exhaustion long ago. Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood explored greed and US culpability in Iraq in a far more subtle and interesting manner. In contrast, W is merely standard political rhetoric masquerading as art.