W.

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Acclaimed filmmaker Oliver Stone continued his cinematic exploration of American presidents with W., following on the heels of his previous political films, JFK and Nixon, both of which were much more about Stone’s imagined versions of reported events than they were alleged reenactments. As such, W. is Stone’s case for what he sees as the absurdity of George W. Bush’s ascendance to the White House and especially the arrogant blunder of the Iraq War. Josh Brolin stars as the miscreant son of George H. W. Bush (James Cromwell), Vice President to Ronald Reagan and 41st president of the United States. Adrift in a sea of booze and squandered opportunities, the younger Bush is largely driven by a need for his disapproving father’s love and respect, which never truly arrives. Becoming a hatchet man for Bush Sr.’s administration, “W” (as his wife, Laura–played by Elizabeth Banks–call him) meets Karl Rove (Toby Jones) and heads toward the Texas governorship, despite his father’s preference that the more golden son, Jeb, get all the family’s support in his Florida gubernatorial bid. Told in broken chronology, the film focuses on Bush’s post-9/11 path to waging a “preventive war” in Iraq despite no hard evidence of weapons of mass destruction to justify it. The major players in W’s administration–Rove, Colin Powell (Jeffrey Wright), Condoleeza Rice (Thandie Newton), and especially Dick Cheney (Richard Dreyfuss)–all participate in closed meetings that closely resemble investigative accounts by The New York Times about the administration’s inner workings leading up to the war. The effect of Stone’s “reality as seen through a fun-house mirror” approach is fascinatingly odd, yet ultimately a powerful examination of the machinations behind selling a supposedly slam-dunk war to an increasingly resistant public.