Oliver Stone’s surprisingly sympathetic portrayal of our 43rd president is effective as a piece of both popular history and of good-old fashioned filmmaking.  Defying polarized expectations, Stone eschews the cinematic flogging we all expected, opting instead for what amounts to a remarkably good-natured chiding.Now, Stone is not exactly heralded for his historical accuracy (after JFK, I wondered if I was somehow involved in the assassination), but here he and writer Stanley Weisner play it remarkably close to the bone, using quotes and reconstructing events that have long been in the public consciousness.  Stone steps around the political landmines of the 2000 election and 9/11, and instead focuses primarily on juxtaposing Bush’s lifestyle before his presidency with his decision to invade Iraq.  Rather than a vilification of the President, a la Michael Moore, W. gives us a genuine attempt at understanding the man, his strengths, and of course his shortcomings.Stone has always been an excellent film craftsmen, and thankfully W. is no exception.  Superb shot selection, seamless editing, and crisp cinematography from front to back.  Josh Brolin’s gives an exceptionally nuanced and grounded performance as both the young and older versions of George W. Bush.  Under Stone’s direction, Brolin and his A-list supporting cast avoid clichéd line-readings and histrionics, with only Thandie Newton managing to turn Condaleeza Rice into a caricature.  Richard Dreyfuss and Tobey Jones are particularly good as the savvy but surreptitious Dick Cheney and Karl Rove.Of course, conservative audience members will certainly quibble with some of Stone’s devices.  Bush’s strained relationship with father seems a little too convenient for the film’s strategies, as are Bush’s legendary verbal gaffes, all of which have managed to find their way into the screenplay.  And does Bush really call Dick Cheney “Vice” and Donald Rumsfeld “Rummy”?But in a way, that’s the real treat of W. and what it has in common with Oliver Stone’s best work.  Stone is brave enough to use his films, not to tell the exact truth (that’s what documentaries are for), but to tell what he feels is the deeper truth.  And thankfully we don’t have to agree with every detail to enjoy ourselves.  We go to an Oliver Stone movie, not to agree, but to be fascinated by Stone’s arguments.  We go to get mad at his exaggerations and chagrined at his accuracies.  We go to be shocked at his callousness and surprised at his sentimentality.And with his newest and highly recommended film W., agreeing and disagreeing with the controversial director has never been quite so agreeable.