W. (I) (2008)
Oliver Stone's biographical take on the life of George W. Bush, one of the most controversial presidents in USA history, chronicling from his wild and carefree days in college, to his military service, to his governorship of Texas and role in the oil business, his 2000 candidacy for president, his first turbulent four years, and his 2004 re-election campaign.
Told in a non-linear fashion, the adult life of George W. Bush is presented, from his days in college to the end of his first term as US President. Issues presented include not being able to find his way in his early adult life but knowing that he wanted to have something to do with baseball despite not being a good enough player to make it into the majors, and concurrently with the Presidency of his father, George Bush, becoming a born again Christian with the "voice of God" directing him to do things, such as run for Texas Governor despite showing no interest in politics beforehand, run for US President, and as President direct the invasion of Iraq on the tenuous intel of Saddam Hussein possessing weapons of mass destruction. That latter move was on the outward goal of homeland and global security without a mention to the public of the goal of oil security, and making this decision on his simplistic black and white view of the world that "you are either with us (the good guys) or against us (the bad guys)". Arguably the overriding issue in his life is his difficult relationship with both his parents, but most specifically his father, as W. was his father's namesake, but it was W.'s younger brother Jeb Bush who seemed to be following naturally in their father's footsteps and as such treated as the favored son.
A chronicle of the life and presidency of George W. Bush.
- In center field of Rangers Ballpark, we see George W. Bush (Josh Brolin) standing with a glove on his hand. He turns around and listens to the cheers greeting him as an unseen announcer introduces him to invisible crowds as the 43rd president of the United States of America.
We then cut to a cabinet meeting in early 2002, where W is in a deep discussion about how soon they should respond to the recent terrorist attacks on their country by attacking the Axis of either evil or terror (they can't decide which it should be), although Colin Powell (Jeffrey Wright) is reluctant to go to war with either Iraq or Iran, given that it was a non-affiliated terrorist named Osama Bin Laden who was behind it, although both VP Dick Cheney (Richard Dreyfuss) and Condi Rice (Thandie Newton) are quick to remind him that both are terrorist holders. George Tenet (Bruce McGill) supports Colin in his way of thinking as Karl Rove (Toby Jones) and Donald Rumsfeld (Scott Glenn) laugh behind their hands at him. Eventually Axis of Terror is decided on and the war gets greenlit. Before the meeting is adjourned, W gets everyone together and has them bow their heads in prayer, although more than a few of them clearly don't have their heart in it.
Thirty-six years earlier, in 1966, we see a much younger W at Yale during pledge week. W and the other fraternity pledges are being endured an alcohol-fuelled hazing the basement of their frat house. One of his fellow pledges is challenged to name as many brothers as he is able to, and he manages to get seven. Another brother challenges someone to beat that, and W steps forward and successfully names all of the frat brothers, stopping only when the lead brother tells him to and getting great cheers for being true Delta Kappa Epsilon material. W tells them that he is pledging the fraternity as a legacy to his father whom was also a plege there, but he states that he has no intrest in persuing his family's business legacy.
We then cut to a jail several months later where W is calling his father, George H.W. Bush (James Cromwell) at home, explaining that there was a "misunderstanding" after a football game in Baltimore that has led to his arrest with several of his frat brothers during a victory party which turned into a riot. George bails his son out and tells him that this is the last time he helps his son out.
A few years later, following graduation from Yale, we see Bush working on one of his family oil rigs back in Texas. He takes a break for water and when the foreman yells at him to get back to work, he quits instead. Later on, we see him in a bar with his girlfriend Susie (Marley Shelton) and he gives her a somewhat long-winded proposal and gets up on the bar to dance with her.
A few years later, though, he is once again coming before his father. This time, W. is asking George to bail him out of the marriage-that-never-got-official. George agrees to it, but then expresses his disappointment with W., especially regarding the fact that he only got Cs at Yale and can't seem to hold a job for more than six months. For his part, W. ignores the criticism and just walks out. (It is implied, but never fully revealed, that George W. Bush is dislexic which would explain his poor grades, with that combined with his growing alcoholism brought during his fraternity hazing at Yale).
Present Day, 2002. Cheney and W are sitting down to lunch in the oval office. After a little preamble regarding the upcoming war, Cheney takes out a small folder. He explains that inside are some ideas regarding possible interrogation techniques that could be instituted at places such as Guantanamo. W. balks at first, worried that there would be stuff like pulling out toenails, but Cheney assures him that it would be nothing lethal, using examples such as sleep deprivation and water torture to make his point. W is reassured and promises to look at the three-page report. As lunch ends, W then asks Cheney to kindly keep his ego in check, since he's only the vice-president, and an insulted-looking Cheney nods and walks out. A few days later, at the Bush ranch, W. is having a walk and talk with some members of his cabinet (Rummy, Dick, Condi, a couple others) and General Thomas Franks (Michael Gaston) regarding a start date for the war, which Franks suggests as April/May/June of 2003. Some time later, we see W. watching a college football game and eating pretzels with his dog when he suddenly begins choking. He staggers around the office and comes behind a recliner. He starts pounding himself on the chest with it and is eventually successful in dislodging the pretzel from his throat just as he collapses to the floor, unconscious.
In 1972, we see W. and his younger brother Jeb (Jason Ritter) driving up to the Bush home in the middle of the night and both of them "drunk as a skunk". They stagger into the house where George and Barbara (Ellen Burstyn) start yelling at W. about coming home so drunk in the middle of the night. W. starts posturing as though he wants to fight George when Jeb intervenes saying that George was out celebrating his acceptance into Harvard Business School. This changes the attitude of Barb and George, but W. then admits he's not going -- he just wanted to see if he could get in. This admission prompts George to admit that he only got in because George had pulled some strings with the admissions board.
Five years later. George W. Bush is playing poker with some friends at Harvard and announcing to them that he plans to run for Congress. At a celebratory barbeque cookout, he meets a beautiful young woman named Laura Welch (Elizabeth Banks). Over drinks and cigarettes, Laura reminds him that they went to junior high together and the two slowly warm to each other, with her telling him that she's a teacher and always tries to see all sides of an argument, making W. want to appoint her his education adviser.
Some time later, we see him in a debate against Kent Vance (Paul Rae), whose strategy seems to be pointing out that Bush is not a real Texan, having been born in Connecticut (HEY! *seethes*) and gone to college in Connecticut. Despite W.'s assertions to a softly understanding Laura that this is nothing but tarring and feathering, he still manages to lose the election, albeit by a mere 6,000 votes.
Back in 2002, we see Bush standing in the field again, listening to the cheers. Back in reality, we see another cabinet meeting where he and his advisors are discussing the need for a regime change in Iraq.
In 1986, W. and Laura are at a 40th birthday party for W where the junior Bush is drinking up a storm with bottle after bottle of wine and hard liquor. During the party, he gets a call from his father George, who wants W. to help with his campaigning for president, which causes W. to announce that he and Laura are moving to Washington when he returns to the restaurant table. Not long after, W. is heading out for a morning run. At one point, he stops due to chest pains and collapses on the side of the road with a heart murmur.
Three months later, we see him in an alcoholics anonymous meeting being headed by Rev. Earle Hudd (Stacy Keach Jr). After the meeting has been ended, W. hangs around and prays with Hudd, saying that most of the time he feels this great weight on his shoulders.
In 1988, at the convention HQ, George is having a meeting with his advisers, which includes Karl Rove, when W. enters. The meeting is ended and W. shows his father a videotape by the Bush camp smearing Dukakis, citing his decision to give weekend visits to convicted criminals (Willie Horton). This is enough to dissuade voters, who make George Bush Sr. the 41st President of the United States. Despite the celebration, though, W. himself isn't pleased. Late that night, he confesses to Laura that he almost wanted his father to lose the election, since he constantly feels as though he's living in George's shadow and has to live up to him.
In 2002, Bush and co. are in a war room, and the current topic of discussion is the location of any possible Weapons of Mass Destruction. Rumsfeld makes the argument that they are most likely in either Tikrit or Baghdad. Cheney agrees and points out that if they don't act they will lose the advantage they have now, although, as Powell points out, they have no exit strategy and no real American presence. However, after a video call to General Franks, they get confirmation that they expect to have over three hundred thousand troops in Iraq, and that that should speed things up nicely.
In 1990, W. is having a conversation with his father over whether or not having faith in God would be of help to him in winning the war in the Persian Gulf. One year later, we see George in the war room with his cabinet celebrating their imminent victory in the Gulf. When asked by Powell if he feels they should have pushed, George decisively says that they went far enough and now need to concentrate on winning the next election. Unfortunately, winning the war wasn't enough and the presidency is given over to Bill Clinton during the results of the 1992 presidential elections. George is devastated and W. is angry that Clinton was elected despite his past and of his reputation of being a womanizer.
Another year or so later, Bush Jr. decides to run for Governor of Texas, despite his parents George Sr. and Barbara begging him to wait, since Jeb is running for Governor of Florida and they can't be in both states at once, but he refuses to listen. Later on, we see W out campaigning for governorship with Rove's advice, which in brief is to get across that he is who he is and no other Bush (at one point in here, we see him asking the famous, "Is our children learning?" question). Regardless, he gets elected governor and as a congratulations prize is given a pair of cufflinks by George and a note saying how proud he is. However, this is not enough for W., who is instead offended that George still can't tell him he's proud face-to-face.
Five years later in 1999, we see W. in his office when he gets a visit from Earle Hudd. He tells Hudd that he feels he has gotten the call, and then explains that he is talking about the call to be president. Hudd is ecstatic for him, and W. says that he thinks that there will be a bad time for the country, and that God wants him as president in order to help the American people through it. Hudd nods in complete belief, and the two get down on their knees to pray for W.'s delivery to the office of the president.
Four years later, in 2003, we see W. giving the state of the union as those who wrote it congratulate each other at various points. Back in the cabinet, W. is determined not to jeopardize their chances in Iraq, despite the massive amounts of protest the war is getting. In a meeting with the British prime minister Tony Blair (Ioan Gruffudd), W. tries to barter for some help from Britain, although Tony is reluctant to commit his own country's troops. Regardless, W. is determined to win in Iraq, even as his parents grow more and more worried about how things are going for him.
A few months later though, things turn dark for Bush and the rest of his cabinet when they find out that Saddam had lied about having Weapons of Mass Destruction, which makes them all look bad. In truth, the caves that were to have the WMDs were lines of cattle showing up on their scans, an error which forces David Kay to resign from his office. Regardless, W. still holds steady, staying committed and visiting wounded soldiers in hospitals. One young Mexican soldier says that he's sorry he can't fight for him, and W. tells him to not worry, that now they're all fighting for him.
One night, he and Laura are heading to sleep, and W. reflects on what he has done and realizes that the only thing he can still do is fight to keep his place. Later, we see him enter the oval office when he finds George Sr. there waiting for him. George says that he's really in deep, even after he pulled W's ass out of that jam in Florida, and he starts posturing as though wanting to fight W (note -- in this scene more than any other, Brolin is the spitting image of W.). W. starts yelling at George to go away and leave him alone when he suddenly wakes up screaming, realizing that it was just a nightmare.
Some time later, we see W. at a press conference where he is continuing to hold support for the war, but the looks on the reporters faces indicate that they're not buying it anymore. One reporter asks what W. feels his place in history will be, and W. says, "In history? Well, in history we'll all be dead." Another reporter asks W. if he feels he may have made any mistakes in his presidency, and W. stammers that he's been kind of caught off-guard here. Eventually, the press-conference ends and W. storms off into the residential area of the white house, going to his bedroom. When he opens the door, W. is standing in the middle of Ranger's stadium on a cool autumn night. The invisible crowd is cheering, and the ball is hit towards W. He raises his hand to catch it, and....
George W. Bush looks around. The whole stadium is silent. There are no players, no announcers, no crowds, and no baseball. He searches the empty field around him, and he sees that the ball is nowhere nearby. Slightly panicked, W. looks around the field some more, trying to find the ball he lost so he can keep on playing....