W. (pronounced "dub-ya"]) is a 2008 American biographical film based on the life and presidency of George W. Bush. It was produced and directed by Oliver Stone, written by Stanley Weiser, and stars Josh Brolin as President Bush. Stone compares his goal for W. to the approach of The Queen (2006) and his own Nixon (1995). Filming began on May 12, 2008, in Louisiana and the film was released on October 17. The Motion Picture Association of America rated the film PG-13 in the United States for "language including sexual references, some alcohol abuse, smoking and brief disturbing war images."
George W. Bush (Josh Brolin) endures an alcoholic initiation by fellow Yale students as a pledge for Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity. During the hazing, Bush successfully recalls the names and nicknames of many of the fraternity members and states that his father's political legacy is one he has no interest in. After the younger Bush is jailed for rowdiness after a baseball game, his father, Texas Congressman George H.W. Bush (James Cromwell), states that he will help his son, but only for the last time. Bush quits an oil patch job soon after and is accepted into Harvard Business School, and gets into a drunken fight with his father that night. Bush reveals his real aspirations in a father-son talk: being a baseball manager. George W. Bush plays poker and tells his friends that he wants to run for Congress (one of his friends mention that Bush's father should run for president against Ronald Reagan). At a barbecue Bush meets Laura Welch (Elizabeth Banks), his future wife. Bush is criticized by his opponent, Democrat Kent Hance, who says that Bush is not a "real Texan" and has spent campaign contributions to throw an alcohol fueled party to underage Texas Tech University students. Bush does poorly in the debate and loses the election, but with the highest number of votes for a Republican candidate in the county's history. After turning 40, Bush becomes a born again Christian, gives up alcohol, and mends his relationship with his father, who invites him to assist with his successful presidential campaign, though the younger Bush complains that he only was asked because his brother Jeb was busy. Karl Rove (Toby Jones) tells Bush that has the potential to make a name for himself, but has not yet done anything with his life. Bush becomes owner of the Texas Rangers while his father oversees the victory of the Gulf War in 100 hours but decides not to invade Iraq and overthrow Saddam Hussein. When Bush's father does not win the 1992 election, Bush blames the loss on the decision not to depose Hussein. Bush decides to run for Governor of Texas despite his parents' disapproval, but continues to fantasize of a career in baseball. An election win prompts a successful presidential bid in 2000, followed by the September 11 attacks. As President, Bush must plan military actions against Iraq, and labels America's enemies — specifically Iraq, North Korea, and Iran — the "axis of evil". Bush begins searching for evidence that Hussein was creating nuclear weapons during 2002 and has the army prepared. Bush's staff supports the president, with the exception of Secretary of State Colin Powell (Jeffrey Wright), who says that invading Iraq would destabilize the country. He is generally overruled by Vice President Dick Cheney (Richard Dreyfuss) and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (Scott Glenn). Cheney states that since the U.S. now occupys 25% of the world's energy and when the country runs out of resources in 25 years, countries such as China and Russia will not help out. He states that the invasion and occupation of Iraq will secure the U.S.' place as sole global superpower by occupying the overwhelming amount of oil in the Middle East and eliminating a chance of another terrorist attack by finding and removing Iraq's WMD's. Bush favourably agrees with Cheney, but reminds the vice president of the media outline of the invasion, that it will spread freedom and democracy throughout the Middle East. However, Cheney also states their will be no exit strategy, and they will stay until their mission is accomplished. In March 2003, the U.S. invades Iraq and, at first, the war appears to be a success. Bush gives his infamous "Mission Accomplished" speech on an aircraft carrier. When it becomes clear that there are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, however, Bush learns to his horror that the responsibility for finding them had been relegated far down the chain of command. Bush has a nightmare in which his father accuses him of ruining the Bush name and says that the family had pinned its hopes on his younger brother, Jeb. In his 2004 State of the Union, Bush states that "Either you're with us, or you're for the terrorists." Bush is asked in a press conference what mistakes he made as President, a question that leaves him speechless. In a dream Bush is a baseball player again and hears a ball hit to the outfield, but loses sight of the ball in the lights.
W. has received mixed reviews from film critics. However, most of the reviews praise Brolin's performance. As of January 27, 2009, Rotten Tomatoes reports that 59 percent of critics gave the film positive write-ups, based upon a sample of 183, with an average score of 6/10. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the film has received an average score of 56, based on 36 reviews. Giving the film four stars in his review, Roger Ebert wrote that it was "fascinating" and praised all the actors, noting that Richard Dreyfuss, in particular, was "not so much a double as an embodiment" of Dick Cheney. In contrast, Ann Hornaday of The Washington Post called the film "a rushed, wildly uneven, tonally jumbled caricature." Film critic James Berardinelli negatively compared the film with Saturday Night Live skits, saying of the actors that "None of them are as dead-on as Tina Fey as Sarah Palin." The Bush administration never officially commented on the film. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who is portrayed in the film, called the Oedipal rivalry "high-grade, unadulterated hooey" and said that Stone's exploration of the family dynamic could have benefited from actual conversations with the Bush family. Slate Magazine's Timothy Noah, however, noted that "most [of] the film's more ludicrous details" are actually directly taken from non-fiction sources, and argued that the film was too kind to Bush in omitting certain historically recorded dramatic events, most notably Bush's mocking of Karla Faye Tucker, a woman put to death during his tenure of the Texan governorship, to interviewer Tucker Carlson. The film appeared on some critics' top ten lists of the best films of 2008. Joe Neumaier of the New York Daily News named it the eighth best film of 2008, and Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times named it on his top 20 list (he did not assign rankings). The film opened #4 behind The Secret Life of Bees, Beverly Hills Chihuahua, and Max Payne, respectively with $10,505,668 from 2,030 theaters with a $5,175 average. The film had a budget of $25.1 million and grossed $25,534,493 in North America, and $3,401,242 internationally.