Charlie Wilson’s War
Rated R; Directed by Mike Nichols; Starring Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams
Charlie Wilson’s War is a strange film. It is smartly made, delightfully acted, and offers an intelligent screenplay. It is a very good movie, but one with a bit of a split personality.
The movie takes us back to a time when the Cold War still existed. Representative Charlie Wilson (Tom Hanks) is hard-drinking, lady-loving, ethics-hating congressman from Texas who is pushed by the sixth richest woman of Texas, Joanne Herring (Julia Roberts), to do something about poor Afghanistan. Invaded by the Soviet Union, Afghanis are dying from the brutal repression of the Soviet military. Charlie gets interested and in a series of scenes tries to find out how he can funnel money from the U.S. government to help the situation. When he meets CIA agent Gust Avrakotos (Philip Seymour Hoffman) he finds a way.
The split personality comes from how much fun we have watching Charlie – his meeting Gust, his arranging weapon sales between enemies, and his dealing with a possible indictment for drug use. Yet we get serious scenes of killing, brutality, and the overwhelming knowledge that Wilson’s funding will one day create blowback to the United States. Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay doesn’t ignore the issues while giving the movie plenty of smart dialogue, dynamic scenes, and good storytelling. It doesn’t hurt to have a great cast delivering the lines either, and yes, Philip Seymour Hoffman steals every scene that he is in. Handily.
Charlie Wilson’s War is not all comedy nor all drama, but an uneasy mingling…and that makes for a very smart movie. It allows for some cynical fun while not ignoring the tragic undercurrents.