Written by Aaron Sorkin
Directed by Mike Nichols
Running Time: 1:37
for strong language, nudity/sexual content
and some drug use.
Charlie Wilson's War starts off slow but once it kicks into gear turns into a fantastic film.
In the 1980s Charlie Wilson was a Congressman from the 2nd district in Texas. He's not well known nor is he known for having much power, but Charlie knows how to move around Congress. He takes a keen interest in the Russians invading Afghanistan, and after a trip to a refugee camp just across the border in Pakistan, decides to do something about it. Wilson uses his influence and position on the Defense Appropriations subcommittee, as well as the influence of Joanne Herring, his biggest backer in Texas, and CIA spook Gust Avrakotos to put more and more money into a covert operation to get the Afghanis the weapons they need to defeat the Russians. If only they stayed around to finish the job.
Charlie Wilson's War has a strange framework which shows Wilson winning an award. The beginning and end of the film lasts all of 2 minutes and doesn't add anything. The movie is basically then an extended flashback. The film starts off slowly as we see Wilson and learn about his personality. All you need to know about the start of the film is that Tom Hanks is naked in a hot tub with strippers and a Playboy model. I wasn't quite sure where the movie was going until Julia Roberts' character Joanne Herring shows up. Once she puts her ideas into play, the movie starts to move along. But it's the appearance of Philip Seymour Hoffman as Gust Avrakotos where the movie really takes off. There is no doubt in my mind that Hoffman is a shoe-in for an Oscar nod as Best Supporting Actor. He completely steals every scene he's in. From the initial argument in his superior's office to the very end, he is hysterical and slightly scary at the same time. He's someone who jokes around a lot but is always in complete control of every situation. It had been a long time since I've seen a performance as engaging as this one, and he is the ultimate reason why I would see this movie again.
Tom Hanks was his usual self. I've come to expect perfect performances and he delivers again. It wasn't a showy role, but a solid one. And as I said before, one in which he is naked with strippers. It's a side of Hanks we don't normally see, so it was nice to find out he can play sleazy. I've never been a huge fan of Julia Roberts or her acting. She usually skates by on her charm, but this time around she added another layer to her performance. And for a woman with a couple of kids, she looks killer in a bikini. Amy Adams plays the wide eyed assistant to Charlie Wilson, who may or may not have a crush on her boss. She's got the sweet and innocent look down pat.
I think the movie will be made or broken based on the story. Will a present day audience be interested in what happened in the 80s in Afghanistan? There are some parallels to today's war and the end of the movie sets up what happens 20 years later. I found the story to be interesting and I learned some things I didn't know but I don't know that I was completely into it. I think it was the enthusiasm of the characters that keep me engaged more than anything else. The movie is based on a true story, but I'm not sure how much was truth and how much was embellished.
I thought the movie was sharply written and I had forgotten it was written by Aaron Sorkin. Mike Nichols handles the movie subtly, allowing the performers to take center stage, but also using locations to make his point. There's one scene with Wilson standing overlooking the refugee camp which was impressive and very sad. The secondary performers were also strong with some recognizable faces among the crowd. Emily Blunt pops up in a small role and Shiri Appleby is one of "Charlie's Angels" the name given to Wilson's assistants, all who happened to be beautiful young women. Om Puri, Faran Tahir and Rizwan Manji had a highly amusing scene as the Pakistani President and his advisers during Wilson's first trip to Pakistan.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall, I enjoyed Charlie Wilson's War. I can't say it was the best movie of the year, but it was very well made and rests on the shoulders of its stars, especially future Oscar nominee Philip Seymour Hoffman. His performance alone is worth the price of admission.
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