Stone’s Unexpectedly Empathetic ‘ W ‘

Stone’s new flick is surprisingly balanced, even sympathetic. Think an over long contemporary SNL skit, albeit with sharper writing. W here has pathos. He is often a passive reactor to events, especially those he himself sets in motion.

We’ll let you decide whether Stone made a ‘good’ movie. As a rule, we don’t care for most Stone movies. ‘Wall Street’ is perhaps the notable exception. The inevitable comparison to ‘W’ will be with Stone’s earlier ‘Nixon’. As Stone himself says and we agree, there really are no comparisons — he clearly did not feel constrained by boundaries of form when making ‘W’.

One reason? So much leaked in the last 2 years from this most secretive of regimes. The Warlord’s actions are accepted consensus truth. Impeachment now is a formalism. Global judgment already is both fact and truth. Second, in Stone’s telling, W’s tragic flaws are more forgivable. The man himself is so genially banal. Nixon by contrast possessed infinitely greater skills and correspondingly more dangerous *capacity* for darkness.

Stone’s movie provides enough characterization and factual detail for strong partisans of all viewpoints. We could imagine almost all emerging from a theater amused, ready to argue points over a beer or three. Why? Because in a strange and possibly unintended way, Stone exonerates W from culpabilities.

This shifts the key debate to who is the most venal in the Warlord’s retinue. The script sticks to actual quotes and facts even if composited from different meetings or places to maintain dramatic flow. Each historical character by necessity is a moving sketch. Stone continues the Left’s bizarre infatuation with General Jello Powell. Here, General Jello is given a wholly undeserved ‘presence’ and personal backbone. The Left’s school yard crush is beyond tiresome, it’s stale. Cher Condi is depicted with pitch perfect detail and historical accuracy. Even her amen chorus in the Imperial City will be deflated knowing that her efforts to airbrush away 2001-2005 will be for naught. Richard Dreyfuss as Cheney gives his most wickedly funny role in our opinion since ‘Moon Over Parador’. Finally we laughed out loud when our old acquaintance Steve Cambone gets a shout out.

The movie’s climax is understandably Iraq and the immediate fall out. Stone choreographs missing WMDs, David Kay’s resignation and bitter recriminations swirling around a puzzled and frustrated W. Inter-staff quips, snide comments and ducking of responsibilities are shown in historically accurate and entertaining detail. The Stiftung could not help but feel that with a few slight changes the same would portray Cheney’s machinations hiding DoJ’s opposition to surveillance and other Cheney/Addington initiatives.

The movie ends abruptly. When the lights came on, Rachel Maddow’s demographic clapped and hollered. We shared the general sense of thumbs up but left in a different place than the Maddow types. Our reaction on the fade out of Stone’s W the man surprised us. For him, we felt pity.