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The Film

   This movie has an online cover W. (2008)
Directed By: Oliver Stone

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View Count: 1
Last Viewed:2009.03.12
First/Last Reviewed:2009.03.15/2009.07.10

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ldh's review

The most surprising thing about this film is that i didn't dislike it because it didn't turn out to be the one-sided satirical acerbic portrait of George W. Bush that one would have expected from Director Oliver Stone. Although there isn't a single movie from this director that i actually like, several of his movies were entertaining somewhat. So, if it had turned into a farce, then maybe i would have watched as just that and let it be. But it's definitely not that, and as such, it will disappoint those who are looking for  Michael Moore style cheap shots at the ex-president.

But it's not either a fair and balanced view of what happened. It tries to be, and there are many strong moments throughout the film where Bush is portrayed in an interesting light. But i found there were simply too many elements of the film veering towards the silly and parody (Thandie Newton' portrayal of Condoleezza Rice was preposterous for example). That duality, the fact that the film walks on the middle of the road and never seems to commit to one side or the other may be the film's greatest fault.

As a satyrical attack, it fails because there are too many strong moments of honest truth, and as a truthful account (if that can be possible so close to the actual events), it simply has too many silly and parodic moments that don't hold up. At the end of the day though, i think that the movie's only strength is in capturing what i think is a close approximation of the man and his character. There are elements of historical and personal tragedy that are well woven together.

I will paraphrase here since i do not remember the exact quote, but Machiavelli once wrote that where people see conspiracy and deception is more often than not the result instead of chance and incompetence. I do believe that the attack on Iraq was well motivated, and that the Bush so-called doctrine of pre-emptive action may stay with us longer than some people would like (i am very curious to see what would happen and how people would react if Iran got Nukes). But i was also upset to see how Iraq turned out for several years with deep mis-management (No End In Sight (2007)) and suddenly adopting a philosophical viewpoint (such as the use of torture) which was so politically fragile and just wrong (Taxi To The Dark Side (2007)). It was not until 2007 that the US seemed to be serious about it and do more things right than wrong (troop surge as an example).

I did like how the film put an emphasis on overall governmental incompetence rather than a grand conspiracy theory, but at the same time, this was another place where the movie kind of lost its focus. Cheney's speech during the preparation for war about Oil, although interesting from a strategic point of view if you actually listen to the words, was just filmed and performed as the begining of a grand oil conspiracy.

This is just another example of how the film ultimately cannot satisfy most people who would either have some intellectual honesty one way or the other, or just would like some politically motivated story-telling. At the end of the day, i think it's just too early in history to try to do a movie like this and Oliver Stone is caught between a rock and a hard place here trying to tell a great contemporary story. He could not have won whichever way he would have made such a film.


- Laurent Hasson