Rich or poor, everyone inexorably suffers from imposed expectations and the expected fulfillment of their destiny. One roll of the dice just so happened to put in presidential office a man who used it as a behavioral science lab in which to work out his trauma.
Such is the position of Oliver Stone’s W., told as a quasi-Shakespearean father-son generational clash crossed with Texan tenacity. Think Hud in modern-day politics instead of now-dated agriculture.
Seemingly right in the wheelhouse of Stone’s wicked satire, W. instead has a subtle invective — insightful and indicting of a country’s complicity up to a point. After all, it suggests, look at what happened to Bush with suggested shame and guilt. Can our country not do the same and have another ride to prominence? Stone only falters when using tinny renditions of patriotic warhorses on the soundtrack.
Aided by an Oscar-worthy turn from Josh Brolin as the POTUS, what W. attempts is something far bolder than badgering. It wonders what it must be like for Bush to wake up every day expecting to cleanly field a Texas leaguer, but lose it in the lights.
Shot on the quick, W. still sparkles with innovative visuals — such as the way sunlight sparkles as strongly through a bottle of Jack as it does through a holier type of spirit. Needless to say, W. gets high on the impurities of both.
Also, Stone always has been one to cast with an eye for mannerisms and interpretation rather than mimicry, and Brolin finds tantalizing bits of personality-driven physical comedy.
Look at the defensive curling of his upper lip, a square-set face that flinches ever so slightly in the cheeks, the patronizing gesture of hands to prove a point. Eventually, we see W. using his traits as tactics, just as many other politicians do.
Brolin is a man who understands occupational legacy as much as anyone, and he parlays that into a portrayal packed with nuance that creates a character, not a caricature.
As supporting roles go: Richard Dreyfuss does Dick Cheney as an Iago who knows when to slink away after his dirty deed; Jeffrey Wright’s Colin Powell feels too forcibly gruff; and Thandie Newton looks uncomfortable under prosthetics that rarely rise above the look of Billy-Bob teeth as Condoleezza Rice.
Brolin’s Bush has an appeasement complex — the black sheep of a family with prize-winning ewes. It wasn’t always that way — when you’re the only impressive pledge in the room, swilling PBR with your future brothers, would you want presidential power?
The film follows Bush from his freewheeling days as a Yale frat rat to oil endeavors and all the way to the White House — with wife Laura (Elizabeth Banks) by his side.
W. is presented in a 1080p 2.35:1-framed widescreen transfer, using the AVC MPEG-4 codec on a dual-layered BD50 disc. The sturdy transfer offers a strong forum for Phedon Papamichaael’s cinematography — cranked up for maximum visual contrast per the Stone way.
Not an action-heavy title, W. gets no considerable boost from an English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack (now a staple of most Lionsgate Blu-ray titles). But dialogue is cleanly mixed and easily discernible throughout.
Blu-ray extras include: audio commentary with Stone; a Dangerous Dynasty: The Bush Legacy featurette in high-definition; a chronological series of text documents detailing the film’s authenticity and creative license; HD trailers; 18 minutes of deleted scenes (in HD and exclusive to Blu-ray); and No Stranger to Controversy: Oliver Stone’s George W. Bush, an interview with Stone in HD and exclusive to Blu-ray.