Ken's Review: Charlie Wilson's War - Not What I Expected

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.

Tom Hanks as Charlie Wilson and Philip Seymour Hoffman as Gust Avrakotos form a great relationship working together and steal the movie in Charlie Wilson's War.Charlie Wilson's War Review

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.

Charlie and his charming friend Joanne Herring, a Texan millionaire, from Charlie Wilson's War.Charlie Wilson's War Review

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.

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It was definitely poorly marketed. I had no idea what it was about, even though I saw numerous trailers. The title implied it was another anti-Iraq War film. And I think I am the only person in America who finds Julia Roberts irritating. I didn't particularly even want to find out what the film was actually about. However, now I have heard some great things about this movie. I wish they had played more into the angle of the character Tom Hanks plays...maybe even the idea that this had to do with the war in Afghanistan. But no. They decided to just show us Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts, and we were supposed to line up in droves. Who did the marketing for this film? It isn't going to do particularly well at the box office unless there is a lot of word of mouth buzz. For me, I guess I will add it to Netflix and wait to see it this summer.

Kristin on Dec 21, 2007


I'd just like to add that this movie was written by Aaron Sorkin. I read the book in galley proofs, a while back, and was unimpressed, but I'll see the movie because of the screenwriter.

Ingrid on Dec 21, 2007


Ingrid- That's a very good point you bring up. Writer Aaron Sorkin has written some great stuff. Including A Few Good Men, Malice, The American President and also tons of episodes of Sports Night, The West Wing, and Studio 60. An excellent writer who has once again given us a great story with Charlie Wilson's War. That was definitely worth a mention.

Ken Evans on Dec 21, 2007


It's hard to believe that this movie is glorifying Terrorism, Covert Wars, Illegal Drug Use, Corrupt Politicians and the Breaking of International Laws all at once....but it just might be. By reading Rotten one will read "Charlie's partner in this uphill endeavor is CIA Agent Gust Avrakotos (Hoffman), a blue-collar operative in a company of Ivy League blue bloods. Together, the three of them--Charlie, Joanne and Gust--travel the world to form unlikely alliances among the Pakistanis, Israelis, Egyptians, arms dealers, law makers and a belly dancer." But you don't read about Tom Hanks and Julia's characters recruiting a Saudi Arabian man to lead their joint venture, by the name of Osama Bin Laden. If America has forgotten so quickly, go back and read about a leader of the Afghani Resistance against the Russians. Yep, Charlie Wilson helped train, educate and fund Osama Bin Laden...and look what Osama Bin Laden has done since Charlie Wilson found him. You would think that Hollywood and anyone with a brain would rather educate people. Glorifying Charlie Wilson, Osama Bin Laden and Joanne Herring is wrong. Many people don't know that Joanne Herring is part of the Johnson Family that owns Kellogg, Brown and Root and DynCorp Private Contracting Groups. Who would have thought huh? My advice, read about these scum in books or on-line. By the way, the book Charlie Wilson’s War is rather dry and isn‘t worth the paper its written on if you asked me, but you get an idea of what went on during that time period. My Advice, don't watch movies that glorify Terrorism and the people who get rich off Wars against Terrorism. Those who seek to impose their own ideology and want nothing else but to be powerful should rott in hell. Merry Christmas and Peace on Earth.

joe mama on Dec 23, 2007


So you enjoyed the movie, huh? Funny you should mention "bad marketing choices." Perhaps these (seemingly bad) marketing choices were planned. My thoughts:

YLC on Dec 23, 2007


Mike Nichols is always very clever and entertaining and this movie fits that description. It depicts the arrogance of our congressmen who really do not look for the real consequences of their actions. The blind hatred for communism and atheism forced the us government to fund Muslim warfare without looking ahead to the fact that the guns might be turned on us. This movie may be clever and entertaining but it was also revealing...we are not communist lovers...but we object to religious fanatics who use war to prove that their religion is better than another on...what fools these mortals be...and our Congress stands by and spends our hard earned tax dollars...look now what is happening in Pakistan...our friends????????? Everyone should see this picture...clever, entertaining and positively should have been marketed for Halloween...

ThereareConsequences on Dec 23, 2007


At the time the "enemy" was the Soviet Union. These people made Afghanistan the Soviets Vietnam and ultimately one of several things that removed that threat to our country. One mans terrorist is often another mans freedom fighter. We created and trained an insurgency in Afghanistan and they prevailed. We failed to plan to help them after they did our bidding and won. There seems to be a theme here. After defeating the Germans and Japanese, we had the Marchall and MacArthur plans to rebuild there countries and help their people to be a useful in a civilized world. Since then our leaders don't seem to understand that we "win" only when the loser is safe and has a purpose in the world. Charlie and the leaders of the time left the Afghans high and dry. What did we expect them to do in a devastated country. They knew we helped them, but also knew we used them. A plan and the $600 billion we spent fighting terrorism, invested in them and others, might have at least reduced the bad guys ability to recruit other terrorist. Stop being so short sighted leaders. Life is not a sequence of moments, it actually requires a strategy.

Steve on Dec 25, 2007

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