Although Oliver Stone’s “W.” hardly depicts President George W. Bush as a great leader nor thinker, it frankly does not treat him unsympathetically either.
Instead, in what amounts to a Cliff Notes version of his adult life from college up until post-war Iraq, Bush (through Josh Brolin, who does a great job) is shown as a black sheep fighting to escape his father’s legacy, and win his approval at the same time.
But unlike Stone’s heavily embellished “JFK,” “W.” draws much of its content from real history, particularly in the run-up over the invasion of Iraq, which is stewed over in several White House meetings pitting the pragmatic Colin Powell (Jeffrey Wright) versus twin hawks Dick Cheney (Richard Dreyfus) and Don Rumsfeld (Scott Glenn) – both of whom come off far worse than anyone in “W.”
For her part, Condi Rice (magnificently played by Thandie Newton) comes off as Bush’s eggheaded stoolie, and Karl Rove (Toby Jones) is cast as a political dork.
Overall, though, I found “W.” to be less comic than I expected, and is more often than not an engaging portrayal of Bush.