Friday 6 February 2009


Nixon ... that was a pretty good 'Oliver Stone president movie' - and you know what, it came years-upon-years after the dude himself had left office (or rather been booted out of office).

World Trade Center - Stone's previous effort - it was alright, a bit overly sappy or even ham-fisted at moments ... subtlety wasn't a strong suit for Stone's WTC movie (although the pre-amble to the 'guys under rubble' story was spine-chilling - but anything remotely 9/11 is spine-chilling).

WTC was, ultimately, made too soon - it's still too fresh in people's minds to be dramatised, and nor is it required at this present time. There's an endless myriad of documentaries detailing practically every single facet of the day itself ... although, indeed, there was United 93 - but that was about an aspect of the day which is overshadowed by the main, and most analyised, event of the twin towers being attacked.

United 93 was meticulously put together and researched, and had deft pacing, direction and writing - it felt like it captured the mood of the day itself - and despite being a dramatisation, it felt true and honest - Stone's WTC felt undercooked, and as I've said it was too soon. Back to United 93 for a moment - bloody nora that was an incredible piece of filmmaking, it really was - I was shaken by the end of it, and absolutely gripped right up to the end credits.

Back to Stone and his premature movie making of late - W (Dubya) ... which, ironically, I'm rather late in blogging my thoughts about, but nevertheless, here we are.

W - yep, it came too soon - far too soon of course, as the titular president was still in office when the flick came out. You've gotta leave at least five years, and preferably a whole decade, before you go marching into dramatising such figures - not before they've finished doing their job, for crying out loud!

An equally bitter pill to swallow is that apparently the filmmakers didn't interview any of the key players, or really looked that far into what was really said or really happened - it all feels incredibly hypothetical and extrapolated. Constantly throughout the film I was wondering "can I believe these words were actually said, that this dynamic existed between these two people, that events really played out like this behind the closed doors of 1600".

Another bitter pill comes in the form of the wildly undecided nature of the film itself - is it pro-Bush (highly unlikely), is it anti-Bush (more likely), is it an unbiased examination of the man from a purely neutral position (occasionally it seems that way, but you quickly find yourself thinking otherwise).

What sort of film is it supposed to be? Clearly it's supposed to be a biopic - but it's a rather poor one. We rush around Bush's life in two hours, flicking back and forth between post-9/11 Iraq/Iran chit-chat and various stages in Bush's life...which often feel hypothetical, or at the very least brought to life by dialogue that seems to be completely, one-hundred-percent made-up...superficial would be a way to describe it.

We get hamfist shoe-horning of trailer-friendly 'Bushisms' (the trailer is clearly anti-Bush and paints the man as a fool) - meanwhile the movie is nothing like the trailer, it hasn't got the decisive (mocking) vision the trailer suggested (although an anti-Bush biopic would have been utterly irresponsible). We get talk about Bush being "the decision maker" practically every ten minutes, but the theme is often left swinging in the wind as we shoot off to another topic elsewhere...again, superficial.

It's odd, at times (especially towards the final reels) it feels like the film is quite sympathetic to Bush - and indeed seems to blame the likes of Cheyney most of all, for failing Bush - his team letting him down (an idea echoed somewhat in strange scenes with Bush on a baseball field). Indeed, much like in Nixon, we get to see the big man himself as a privately troubled figure - a far more interesting avenue for exploration, which is unfortunately shoved into the last moments rather than being a driving focus of the entire film (which needed to be longer to do any justice to telling the story of a man who's become enemy number one for countless people).

My thoughts on Bush? I neither worship him, nor despise him - he's done good and bad ... now, Gordon Brown on the other hand, I think he's a complete bastard who's done nothing but destroy Britain along with his violently incompetent government (portrayed by Mr Fantastic momentarily filling the shoes of Tony Blair in a pretty-boy, but completely neglected and pointless role ... perhaps that echoes reality for some, however).

There is good in the film though - Brolin's performance is captivating and should be commended, especially after jumping on board so late in the day (I couldn't believe it when I read that Christian Bale was intended to play Bush originally) - Brolin feels like Bush. The evolving walk and talk, the mannerisms, the attitude and the personality...occasionally we feel the misguided hand of Stone blundering in now and then, but for the vast majority Brolin does a bang-up job of inhabiting the big man himself.

Other performances vary wildly - often descending into either nothing special, or sheer cartoon wack-ness (Newton's version of Rice, for instance).

So ultimately, it's wildly uncontrolled and feels like it has no idea what its purpose is supposed to be - and yes, again, it is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too soon in arriving.

As such, hopefully we'll have a fully unbiased analysis of Bush in a decade - because let us not forget, where is the Clinton biopic?

I just hope we don't have an Obamarama movie before his first term is done, let alone before his presidency is complete, that'd just take the piss - WAIT until the time is right, for crying out loud!

W is worth a look (if only at least for Brolin's terrific performance), but definitely a case of "could do better" (even "a lot better").

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