Charlie Wilson's War (2007)

DVD Cover (Universal)
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Overall Rating 68%
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Ranked #1,209
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A drama based on a Texas congressman Charlie Wilson's covert dealings in Afghanistan, where his efforts to assist rebels in their war with the Soviets have some unforeseen and long-reaching effects. --IMDb
Review by bluemeanie
Added: December 24, 2007
Can one man make a difference? "Charlie Wilson's War" would answer that question with a resounding 'yee-haw'. It's a film that shows how politics in the United States government really work and how the United States is always about doing 'the right thing'. Director Mike Nichols, with a crackling screenplay from Aaron Sorkin, has crafted an emotional and lighthearted romp through the Cold War, with three Oscar winning actors to guide us. "Charlie Wilson's War" is one of those films that you just can't help smiling about, and I found myself smiling throughout, wondering why they don't make good old fashioned entertainment like this anymore. In a year when propaganda flicks like "Rendition" and "Lions for Lambs" have been boring audiences to tears, it was nice to see a film that, in a subtle way, rebukes not the War itself, but the United States' policy therein. It is a film that uses an example from our past to show why we're doing what we're doing now. As Charlie Wilson explains to Joanne in the film, when asked why Congress would say one thing and then do another, he replies, "It's tradition mostly". The same could be said for our current policy in Iraq. But, enough politics. "Charlie Wilson's War" is not really a political film. It's a funny, ferocious and furiously pleasing picture that deserves a slot on my end of the year list.

What lies at the heart of "Charlie Wilson's War" is the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the early-1980's. The world hated the Communists, but no one was willing to do anything about it because they feared retaliation from the Russians. When Congressman Charlie Wilson (Tom Hanks) sees Dan Rather in a turban, he gets interested. You see, Wilson is a member of all the key committees in Congress that would allow someone such as himself to help fund the Pakistanis in obtaining weapons capable of destroying Soviet tanks and helicopters. He is persuaded in that direction by the sixth wealthiest woman in Texas, Joanne Herring (Julia Roberts), who sees the situation overseas as more of a religious matter than anything else. He brings along disgruntled CIA operative Gust Avrakotos (Philip Seymour Hoffman), who has a sharp tongue pretty much all of the time, doesn't like most people and doesn't believe a word Wilson says, initially. Together, the three of them launch the largest covert military operation in the history of the United States, even going so far as to convince the Israelis to help supply weapons to the Muslims. We've been trying to do that for years and all it took was a persuasive talk from one Texas Representative. The film takes the audience on the journey that Wilson went on in order to make these dreams come true.

When you're in the hands of Mike Nichols, you seldom have to worry about where you're going. With the exception of "What Planet Are You From?" and a couple other blunders, his track record is pretty remarkable, and his previous film "Closer" re-established him as a master filmmaker who was still churning out the serious contenders. "Charlie Wilson's War" is no exception, one of his finest films in years and a true testament to his genius behind the camera. Nichols realizes, first and foremost, that this kind of film sells better as a comedy. And he's right. The screenplay by Aaron Sorkin is one of the brightest, funniest and sharpest scripts of the year, and it might garner some much deserves awards consideration for some of the actors privileged enough to speak the lines in it. Sorkin has always been a fine writer, but this one showcases his ability to inject humor into the most bizarre places at the most bizarre times. The film also switches balance a lot. We have the scenes in Afghanistan, which are heartfelt and emotionally austere. Then we go to scenes of Wilson in his office with his all female staff pattering about like school girls, but school girls with college degrees hellbent on protecting their somewhat sexist employer. But Wilson isn't sexist in the way you think - he merely thinks man should be able to have sex with woman. Every woman.

Let's start the performance section off with a bang. I have a difficult time imagining there being a more entertaining performance this year than Philip Seymour Hoffman in this film. As far as I am concerned, this picture establishes him as the greatest actor alive today, hands down. His first scene in the film is just incredible - the kind of scene that wins Oscars, and hopefully it will do the same again this year. As Charlie Wilson, Tom Hanks brings the same charm and class to the role that he brings to everything he touches. Audiences love Tom Hanks because he makes himself so easy to love - so vulnerable on screen. Watching him, I was reminded of just how amazing he is. He can't help but make it all seems to effortless. As for Julia Roberts, I have never been her biggest fan, but she was delightful here in one of the best roles I've seen her take in a long time. She doesn't have a lot of screen time, and that was a good thing for me, but the time she does have is used sparring with Tom Hanks and Philip Seymour Hoffman and absolutely holding her own. I also want to take a moment and mention the great Ned Beatty, who has a fine supporting turn here as a Senator who helps Wilson find the necessary funding. Beatty has relegated himself to supporting roles lately and this film shows us why he is so commanding on screen. Finally, I want to single out Amy Adams, who is quickly becoming a superstar in her own right. She does a lot with a little.

This has started off as a great weekend for film. "Charlie Wilson's War" is the type of film I wish more people would make. Why? It's entertaining. Some times you want to go to the movies to be informed, and sometimes you want to go to the movies to be enlightened. Some times, you just want to go to be entertained. And for those seeking that simple ideal, "Charlie Wilson's War" is very much the picture for you. I have fears that it might get swallowed up this holiday season with some of the other options available, but I hope it finds a home and does well. I want to see Philip Seymour Hoffman win the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, and I would love to see Tom Hanks nominated for Best Actor. Aaron Sorkin deserves a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar, hands down and Mike Nichols would also be much deserving of a Best Director nod. What surprised me most about this film was its ability to make you think about issues with a smile on your face - to think about these serious matters in such a lighthearted way, but still have them count. When was the last time a film made you do that? When was the last time you went to a movie and found yourself smiling the entire time? "Charlie Wilson's War" wins on all fronts.

waxtadpole3657 #1: waxtadpole3657 - added 12/24/2007, 10:08 PM
I'm really interested in seeing this, if only for Amy Adams. I loved her in Enchanted, which made me want to see Junebug, in which she was amazing. Quickly becoming one of my favorite actresses.
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