Charlie Wilson’s War is the true story of democratic congressman Charlie Wilson (Hanks) and the U.S. effort to arm the Afghan mujahideen against the invading Soviet Union. The film is obviously a shoe-in for more than a few Oscar nods – which comes as no surprise – with a cast including Tom Hanks, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julia Roberts, directed by Mike Nichols, AND written by Aaron Sorkin. Sorkin is in full form here, the political stuff being where he really shines. The screenplay is smart, witty, and gives you that “entertainment for grownups” feeling. It’s always nice to see a movie like this without feeling like there’s a ton of information flying over your head.
The cast are all seasoned vets, and work well with each other. About half-way through the movie, it did occur to me that a movie like this is a bit of a departure for Tom Hanks. Regardless, he still performs well here. He’s done maybe three or four so-so movies in his entire career. I mean, it’s Tom Hanks. Have you ever met anyone who didn’t like him? As far as casting goes, the only disappointment was Julia Roberts. She performed her role as well as she could, it just felt like it was too small for her. Her role seemed a little miscast. The real surprise here was Philip Seymour Hoffman. I was really kind of blown away at how good he was in the film. He’s come a long way from Dusty the pothead in Twister. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get a Best Supporting Actor nod when Oscar nominations are announced.
2007 hasn’t been the best year for political films. Movies like The Kingdom, Lions for Lambs and In the Valley of Elah all failed to meet expectations. That said, Charlie Wilson is one of the few films that will probably come out on top this year, for a couple of reasons. One, the movie’s funny, and not being advertised as a straight-up political film like The Kingdom and Lions for Lambs were. If you’ve seen any of the commercials, they have a little more upbeat feel to them. Second, these are obviously politically-charged times we live in. Most of the country is sick of hearing it, and everyone gets touchy when things like Iraq come up. Another credit to Aaron Sorkin is that the film manages to make a political statement without punching you in the face with it, something other films we’ve seen this past year haven’t been able to pull off. The movie takes care of all its soap-boxing in the last ten minutes. Wilson, talking to other congressmen about approving funds for the rebuilding of Afghanistan says that America always seems to go into other countries with her big ideals, changes the world, and then just leaves. The entire movie is wrapped up with the quote, “These things happened. They were glorious and they changed the world… And then we fucked up the end game.” It kind of all makes sense. B-