Maverick Stadium in Arlington, Texas is the backdrop and metaphor from which a young George W. Bush regards his life. Oliver Stone has done it again. W. succeeds where Lions For Lambs did not. W. is the anti-war narrative with a human spin: don't get into a "barrell" you can't get out of. Stone tells Bush’s story in flashbacks, great strung together idioms, and a solid supporting cast that do not rein in its star, Josh Brolin. Dr. Rice (Thandie Newton) and General Powell (Jeffrey Wright) deliver fine and exacting performances as they look, walk, and talk like the woman and man they portray.
The film moves from 1966 and George’s Yale pledging days, drinking daze, failed business and job days to his rise from a stunning congressional seat loss to a Democrat who out-religions and out-patriots Bush. He never saw it coming and vows never again to get blindsided by religion and patriotism. His alter-ego “fairy” is downplayed by Toby Jones' Karl Rove. Flashes alternate between 1966 up to 2004 and the Iraq war sale to Congress. W. waxes documentary at times with footage of incumbent senators wildly applauding “the Decider” as he pitches his vision for Iraq.
Stone paints the big picture, but leaves details to the viewer’s imagination as to how a recovered alcoholic, from a prominent political family, drives the states into the United Shambles of America. This is funny and scary stuff released just in time for Halloween.
At some point Bush realizes he needs to prime the pump by getting off the sauce. W's success is linked ultimately to his grappling with a ruined, unexamined life led ego-first by alcohol and drugs to a St. Paul-like conversion while doing his “three miles a day.”
Bush’s big moment arrives when he becomes Bush the BAC, or born again Christian — a man who leaves behind the old school Presbyterian religion of his father “Poppy,” played by James Cromwell. Theirs is an uneasy, tenuous, and non-familial relationship. Bush Sr. is portrayed as cold and uninvolved in his son’s life. He obviously prefers his son Jeb. One of the best scenes occurs when Bush 41 runs and wins by using Willie Horton ads and his son’s help to drive home the fear factor. And the other intriguing scene is when he loses to Bill Clinton. Here Bush sits staring at the TV crying when W confronts him about Saddam Hussein, blurting out, “If you had cleaned his clock you would have won.”