In times of political strife, America needs a leader who can make the tough calls when necessary - you know, a "decider." And thus, we scrutinize the title character of "W."
Forty-third U.S. President George W. Bush (Josh Brolin) has an unusual presidency to say the least. No less noteworthy are his days before reaching the Oval Office.
From his days as a troublemaking Yale student to his restlessness in trying to find a suitable career, Bush causes no small amount of grief for his father (James Cromwell), whose expectations for his namesake provide the basis for an endless amount of rebellion from the prodigal son.
W. begins to find his place in the politics of his adopted Texas homeland and starts to clean up his hard-drinking act when he meets his future wife (Elizabeth Banks). But, his familial ambitions start to catch up with him, moving him to set his sights higher, leading to a political movement that will change the nation forever.
Brolin outdoes the commander in chief's many imitators, including Will Ferrell and his infamous "Saturday Night Live" buzzword - "strategery" - or Timothy Bottoms' uncanny resemblance in the short-lived Comedy Central sitcom, "That's My Bush!"
Brolin's portrayal of Bush is balanced in its inevitable comedy - his facial expressions alone are priceless - while still coming off as a human being.
Cromwell is unusually threatening as W.'s presidential predecessor and constant critic. Who would have guessed George H.W. "Poppy" Bush could ever seem scary? Banks is admirable as the ever-supportive, stoic Laura Bush, even stacking up to Ellen Burstyn as former first lady Barbara.
The big-name cast features a multitude of skilled acting - Richard Dreyfuss as an eerily accurate Dick Cheney, Thandie Newton as a stodgy Condoleezza Rice, Scott Glenn as a stubborn Donald Rumsfeld, Jeffrey Wright as browbeaten Colin Powell, and more.
Director Oliver Stone's goals in chronicling the life and times of Dubya - the film's proper pronunciation - are very unclear. Although he does not seek to indict the questionable policies of the Bush administration, Stone's intentions certainly are not to flatter the controversial leader with embarrassing recaps such as the pretzel incident.
At times, Stone seems to be going out of his way to avoid commentary, passing up an easy target like the 2000 presidential election. Indeed, most of the current action takes place in 2004, regarding brainstorming sessions and meetings pertaining to the situations in Iraq and Afghanistan while the earlier years of Bush's life are weaved throughout the storyline.
This leads to a reasonably successful "cause and effect" type narrative as we see Dubya's side of the issue.
Regardless of your political views, the humanization of this man ultimately helps to understand his position, his prospects and the overwhelming family drama that has been part of his life.
"W." may lack a real bite, but what can it say that has not already been said?
With the passions of the American public inflamed about the still-relevant topics involved, the only way to get proper perspective on the subject is to examine Bush from a much more level-headed standpoint. For any of its other flaws, "W." certainly achieves this.