Friday, October 24, 2008

Movie / W

Oliver Stone's biopic of President George W. Bush was lightly attended, drawing 20 people in a theater that would have held several hundred. At many points it is comedic, drawing chuckles rather than real laughter, in view of the deep gravity of the situations depicted.

It barely mentions 9/11 drawing instead on the rich material of young W's early life as the black sheep of the patrician Bush family, the heavy drinking, arrests, bad attitude, lack of focus on school, inability to hold any job, inopportune entanglements with women. The contrast with his more studious brother Jeb is duly noted.

Then around age 40 or so, he has a religious experience, stops drinking, starts attending Bible classes and praying. He also serves his father's presidential campaign, finally displaying skill and ability (with negative campaigning), and meets Karl Rove, who thereafter gets him elected governor of Texas.

The film intercuts his early life and rise to power with scenes of Iraq War planning. The characters of Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, Colin Powell, Condolezza Rice, Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld, and Doug Feith are all readily recognizable, some of them dead ringers.

The deliberation scenes may be fictional, based on memoirs, or merely reconstructed from news accounts. However they are chillingly realistic, depicting a president with a limited attention span, little patience for details, persistently ungrammatical speech, who prays at every meeting, reduces all ideas to slogans, believes in clear "right and wrong," and is easily misled by his agenda-driven advisors, especially Cheney, Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld into attacking Iraq without any real justification besides an unstated desire to control Mideast Oil. When WMDs fail to materialize the story is changed to democratizing the Arab world.

Josh Brolin who portrays W remarked (on Saturday Night Live) that making the film convinced him that neither he nor W should ever be president. One would think for all his political craft, he would be capable of uttering a coherent sentence or engaging in extended reflective thought, but Stone's W remains a dullard all the way.

One take away from this film is that it strains credulity that the same team who planned the Iraq War fiasco could have been involved with any alleged 9/11 conspiracy. Others must have handled that, who were not making plans in a fog of total incompetence.

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