A little slow, but an awesome cast. Richard Dreyfuss as Dick Cheney was amazing, and Thandie Newton as Condi Rice had me wanting to punch her in the mouth. I doubt the real Rice is that sycophantic and annoying. I also doubt Colin Powell was the standup guy he's portrayed as in the film. He's a master of office politics in real life, and such people never, never speak their mind in a hostile environment when their opinion is in the minority. They wait, issue perfunctory, CYA demurrals, and if they feel strongly about things (and professional office politicians seldom feel strongly about much of anything besides their own standing), work behind the scenes to get their way. It was the most jarring thing I saw in the film, in fact, and while it was probably intended to ennoble Powell, it had the opposite effect for me -- I kept thinking he was being a dumbass and setting himself up to be out-manoeuvred.
The lack of physical resemblance between the actors and their real life counterparts, and the recentness of the events being portrayed gave the entire film a dream-like quality to me, it was as if I was reliving, through the distortions of a dream, events that had actually happened. I don't know if this was intentional on Stone's part or not, but it was a clever thing if it was intentional. He certainly could have found actors who more closely resembled the originals had he wanted.
This is one of Stone's poorer efforts. He pulled too many punches, the pacing is slow, and Bush deserves harsher treatment than he gets in the film. The film is a character study of a man without much character, and as such ends up being no more interesting than the times the film portrays. Those were interesting times, but they aren't anymore -- we've moved on to other issues, other personalities, and the events covered in the film are all known, which makes things even more dull. The writing and acting spice it up some, but only some.
As I was watching it I thought the real, perfect film about Bush's presidency would be a comedy. The events themselves are all well known, so a straight documentary-style film (like this one) is bound to be dull. We're living the tragedy, so no point in making a film about it, too. But a comedy, now, that's where the opportunity lies. We're paying trillions for the slow motion fiasco that has been the past eight years, might as well get some laughs out of it. And the more effective scenes in W. are the comedic ones, when Scott Glenn is a little over the top as Rumsfeld, when Bush leads a walking party down the wrong path on his own ranch -- these made the film bearable. A lot more scenes like those and it would have been more than bearable.
I don't know if Dreyfuss was on screen long enough to get a supporting actor nod, but he really was astounding. Creepy and brooding and Machiavellian, but not in a heavy handed way. It was pulled off really well.