Charlie Wilson's War

"Good"

Charlie Wilson's War Review


Director Mike Nichols and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin made two exceedingly smart choices in adapting George Crile's book Charlie Wilson's War. First, they consented to a brisk 95-minute running time, rather than fall prey to the "prestige" mentality that can saddle such projects, and that bloats them out to beyond two hours. The other choice was leavening their material with a snappy, devil-may-care attitude -- a sure-fire strategy to skim over their story's weakest areas of story and character development.

Charlie Wilson's War is entertaining, and that's about the extent of it. Nichols and Sorkin's end result is decidedly a gloss on Crile's account of how the eponymous Texas congressman managed to supply military support to the Afghan Mujahideen fighting the Soviet occupation in the 1980s. While their movie mostly avoids the Hollywood trappings of political correctness and underdog sentimentality, it also doesn't have the chutzpah of its own conniving characters to offer much in the way of an incisive interpretation of those events.

It's during a Vegas hot-tub party when the womanizing hedonist Wilson learns of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan on a TV broadcast. Wilson's partying that night alongside strippers and lines of coke comes back to haunt him throughout the story ahead as his opponents attempt to use it to ruin him. Sorkin neatly cross-braids Wilson's attempts to dodge the bullets of scandal with the main attraction: His lobbying on Capitol Hill to allocate funds providing covert military hardware support to the Mujahideen. But America can't seem as if it's waging a direct war with the Soviets, so Wilson must make arrangements to funnel Soviet weaponry confiscated by the Israelis via Pakistan and into Afghanistan. Perhaps more vehement than Wilson is Joanne Herring (Julia Roberts), a right-wing Texas socialite and Wilson's casual lover, who never met a Communist she didn't hate. And rounding out their team is CIA operative Gust Avrakotos (Philip Seymour Hoffman), whose first name aptly describes his personality. Wilson, Herring, and Avrakotos make a saucy, fast-talking trio of wheeler-dealers, each using their individual métiers to shore up what amounts to a muscular, billion-dollar arsenal with which to arm the anti-Soviet resistance.

As Congressman Wilson, Tom Hanks delivers a reliable seriocomic performance. He offsets Wilson's good-old-boy persona with shades of compassion and shrewdness. But why exactly does Charlie Wilson, a Congressman deeply entrenched in district-minded politics, care so readily for the Afghan cause? It's a question that Nichols and Sorkin don't bother to ask or address; they elide the matter of what it was that pricked Wilson's conscience (and sense of political will), and replace it with an intent directive to tell a giddy and outrageous tale.

With Wilson's right hand man, Avrakotos, the question of motive is less nettlesome since the CIA operative acts throughout in the line of duty. That aside, Hoffman's performance is also the juiciest, and pure fun to watch as it verges into broad farce. Avrakotos may be an ingenious, no-nonsense professional, but the sight of him swaggering about, wearing large spectacles, and tucked into a suit a size too small recalls Chris Farley's blowhard motivational speaker who lived in a van "down by the river," from SNL. In her bouffant and pearls, Roberts offers no surprises as Herring; her performance is just a variation on all the Southern belles she's played before, by turns acerbic, warm-hearted, and appealing.

On the plus side, Sorkin's script and Nichols' approach to the material is oriented towards charm and laughs, and, as such, it never becomes tedious with self-importance. While Charlie Wilson's War never risks the stonier byways into enriching Wilson's characterization and deepening character relationships, and takes easy jabs at historical ironies and sexing up its subject matter, it does so with a sense of mischief and mirth. Sometimes, you appreciate a movie that opts for the modest road, and whose mechanics are as well-oiled as this one's.

It's a war on dry skin!



Charlie Wilson's War

Facts and Figures

Run time: 102 mins

In Theaters: Friday 21st December 2007

Box Office USA: $66.6M

Box Office Worldwide: $119M

Budget: $75M

Distributed by: Universal Pictures

Production compaines: Universal Pictures, Participant Productions, Playtone Production

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 82%
Fresh: 159 Rotten: 36

IMDB: 7.1 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Charlie Wilson, as Gust Avrakotos, as Joanne Herring, as Bonnie Bach, as President Zia, as Charlies Engel, as Cravely, as Charlies Engel, as Avi Perlman, Cyia Batten as Stacey, as Harold Holt, as Doc Long, as Jane Liddle

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Wind River Movie Review

Wind River Movie Review

After writing the superb Sicario and Hell or High Water, Taylor Sheridan moves back into...

The Vault Movie Review

The Vault Movie Review

Filmmakers Dan Bush and Conal Byrne attempt a mash-up of a frantic heist movie with...

Goon: Last of the Enforcers Movie Review

Goon: Last of the Enforcers Movie Review

The 2012 Canadian comedy Goon was one of those surprising little films that snuck up...

Detroit Movie Review

Detroit Movie Review

After The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal reteam to...

Logan Lucky Movie Review

Logan Lucky Movie Review

Good news: Steven Soderbergh's well-publicised retirement from directing only lasted about four years. He's back...

American Made Movie Review

American Made Movie Review

An enjoyably freewheeling tone and Tom Cruise's star wattage combine to make this an entertaining...

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power Movie Review

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power Movie Review

It's been a decade since Al Gore's wake-up-call documentary won the Oscar. And here he...

Advertisement
The Hitman's Bodyguard Movie Review

The Hitman's Bodyguard Movie Review

It really doesn't matter that this movie is utterly ridiculous, because the central pairing of...

Final Portrait Movie Review

Final Portrait Movie Review

A relaxed, amusing true story about noted Swiss painter and sculptor Alberto Giacometti, this sharply...

Tom of Finland Movie Review

Tom of Finland Movie Review

Finnish artist Tuoko Laaksonen used the name "Tom of Finland" as he drew explicit illustrations...

A Ghost Story Movie Review

A Ghost Story Movie Review

Filmmaker David Lowery reunites the stars from his offbeat Western Ain't Them Bodies Saints for...

Atomic Blonde Movie Review

Atomic Blonde Movie Review

From the co-director of John Wick, this similarly styled action romp puts Charlize Theron front...

Girls Trip Movie Review

Girls Trip Movie Review

This movie's premise basically sounds like The Hangover with added black girl power. But it's...

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie Movie Review

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie Movie Review

There's so much manic energy in this animated action comedy that it can't help but...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.