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Review: written Nov 2009

Where’s the hook…?


Oliver Stone brings his undeniable talent to this biopic of George `Dubya' Bush.. supported by one of those to-die-for casts he seems to have at his beck and call. There's no question this is slickly put together, and that Josh Brolin is completely convincing as the title character .... but as a movie experience there is just something missing.

Stone presents Bush as a follower rather than a leader. Someone who is driven by being under the shadow of his brother in his parents eyes, and whose political drive to succeed is driven by his need to succeed in his father's eyes. Surrounding him, we have a veritable who's who of Hollywood acting as all the well-known string pullers behind him and around him - most of whom are thinly drawn, not being the centre of attention - but of all of them, Richard Dreyfuss does a surprisingly good job of fleshing out Dick Cheney. There's a little jolt of energy whenever he has a moment on screen, particularly sparring with Colin Powell. But these are asides, with W's evolving character being the focus, and so as the movie goes on, we see Bush at different times of his life. From College pranks through trying to find a job he wants to keep, meeting Laura, becoming born again (watch out for a great Stacey Keach turn) and starting his political career.. all told non linearly, interspersed with the period of time that will dominate his place in history - going to war with Iraq.

With all those fine ingredients however, it seems that something has been left out - some excitement, some dramatic hook to draw you in. Frankly, Bush's life, rather like his presidency some would argue, is rather dull. In the end, the enjoyment of the movie is in the details.. enjoying watching for Hollywood well known faces playing political well known faces, learning a little about Dubya's earlier life. But we don't come away much richer for the experience. Stone's interpretation of the man is valid, but never feels insightful enough or definitive, neither does it have the cinematic or dramatic energy of, say, `Nixon'. It's not a disaster, but neither does it sparkle. Sometimes interesting, never fascinating. Perhaps it is too soon, and looking back in twenty years or more this will be regarded in higher esteem.

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