Ken's Review: Charlie Wilson's War - Not What I Expected
by Ken Evans
December 21, 2007
I don't know about you, but I was not particularly looking forward to seeing Charlie Wilson's War right off the bat. The trailer was boring and uninspiring. The poster was not exciting or interesting. Besides the fact that it had Tom Hanks and Philip Seymour Hoffman, it just wasn't presented very well. Now that I've seen it and I've had some time to look back on it, I'll admit that my assumptions were wrong. Turns out it is a very interesting movie with inspired performances and a great story. It's just another example of a deceptive trailer and bad marketing choices.
Charlie Wilson's War tells the true story of Texan congressman Charlie Wilson (Tom Hanks) and his mission to covertly aid the Afghani's in their fight against the Soviets. Although Charlie is the one who initiates this plan, he also enlists the help of Texan millionaire Joanne Herring (Julia Roberts) and renegade CIA agent Gust Avrakotos (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Together they are able to raise enough funds to provide the Afghani's with exactly the type of weaponry they would need to stop the Soviets.
That is the basic story, except I left out one major point that adds a whole other layer of interest: Charlie Wilson was a womanizing, drinking and partying political genius. After watching the film I'm torn between loving the guy for what he achieved and being embarrassed for the type of guy he was. It was like watching Ray or Walk the Line, where you appreciate what they brought to the music world but would never want to actually be like them. But that is what made Charlie Wilson so interesting, the fact that he was such a crude congressman but didn't hide it or make excuses for it. In fact, many times he used it to his advantage to cut deals or build relationships.
This was a very solid film all around. The story was interesting, especially if the majority of it is true. I'm very interested in reading the book now that I have seen the film. Although I don't think it's Best Picture worthy, it was definitely enjoyable and worth seeing. Julia Roberts is great as always, but the real stars were Hanks and Hoffman. The relationship they form between their characters was pure magic. The scene where they first meet and have a discussion in Charlie's office might be one of my favorite scenes of the year. The way they interacted with each other was amazing. Amy Adams also deserves a mention for playing Charlie Wilson's assistant, but if you really want to see her at the top of her game go see Enchanted.
I have to mention director Mike Nichols for his excellent work in Charlie Wilson's War. If you weren't a fan of Closer, as I was not, then it has been a long time since we have seen a great film from Nichols. Not since Regarding Henry (1991) have I seen a film from him that I truly appreciated. It's hard to comprehend how the same man who directed The Graduate, which is a perfect example of great filmmaking, could also be the director of a film like What Planet Are You From?. With Charlie Wilson's War, Nichols is finally back where he belongs.
If you saw the advertisements for Charlie Wilson's War and thought it would be slow and boring, that isn't the case. This would be my second pick of what to see this coming weekend, right after Sweeney Todd. Bear in mind that it is not a family movie, as it is rated R, but it is something that adults or college aged individuals will appreciate. It's actually a very funny and entertaining piece of political drama that will have you laughing and smiling throughout most of it.