Charlie Wilson's War

Charlie Wilson's War

(2008)

A comedy/drama based on the true story of Texan congressman Charlie Wilson's covert dealings in Afghanistan, directed by veteran Mike Nichols (The Graduate). "Good-Time Charlie" Wilson (Tom Hanks), a flawed and fun-loving Congressman from East Texas, deftly operates the levers of power to channel money and weapons to the Mujahedin of Afghanistan following the Soviet invasion of their country in late 1979. Charlie finds assistance in the oddest of places - a renegade CIA agent; a Houston socialite; a Pakistani dictator; the Israelis who modify and manufacture Soviet weapons; and a multitude of women.

Flicks Review

Not your average Beltway drama.

Robert McNamara summed it up best: "Cold war? Hell, it was a hot war!" If you want a visceral illustration of the disparities explored in Charlie Wilson's War, you could do a lot worse than that gulf between cold – functional handshakes, photo-op smiles – and hot.

Because the hot in Charlie Wilson's War is a killing heat. Bodies are torn apart, war machines downed in operatic fervour. Wacked out on sunstroke, nobody can seem to tell their loving and their vengeful Gods apart anymore. The action sequences, intercuts of grainy-as-guts archival and pristine staged footage, meld together, the realities on the ground conflating with the media feed until it's all kinda lost in one deadly haze.

Walking straight down the middle of all these lines is our guy, the titular Mr. Wilson. This is where Aaron Sorkin's careful blend of researched grounding and theatrical playfulness blends with Hanks' unflagging affability to chuck Charlie into the realms of minor classic.

Hanks and Hoffman's characters anchor the picture’s fluctuating perspectives – here, there, then, now, us, them – with a kind of playful Zen mastery of their own discrepancies. It's not that Wilson is split between lecherous gadabout and Christian patriot, or Gust (Hoffman) between hair-trigger insubordinate and dutiful spook: it's that they somehow manage to leverage their own character flaws into serving their higher calling. If this sounds tricky on paper, just wait'll you see it happening a half-dozen times per scene.

The most widely-viewed account of America's covert incursion into the Afghan crisis was – ahem – Rambo III. That picture closes with a touchingly anachronistic title card: "This film is dedicated to the gallant people of Afghanistan". Charlie Wilson's War also ends with a title card: "We fucked it up in the endgame".

Which brings you right back to "Strange" McNamara: ain't hindsight a bitch?


The Peoples' Reviews

Average ratings from 1 ratings, 1 reviews
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Yes, Hanks and Hoffman are absolute pros and a pleasure to watch. And this bit of history definitely needs to be known by every person in modern politics and the state of the world today. Yet aside from the fine acting (not Julia Roberts) and the important message, the film definitely falls short. It is not daring or thought provoking. Worse yet, it is barely entertaining. If not for the strength of Hanks and Hoffman, we would be left with a very straight and dry hostory lesson. Both of these... More headliners lift the film up giving it a bit of class and character, dare I say Life?
I'd expect a lot more from Nichols (director). What happened to the cutting edge quality of The Graduate? Lost so many decades ago now I suppose.
As for Julia Roberts, she doesn't deserve mention except to say, this was a horrible casting decision on the part of the production and whatever large figure salary she was paid could have been better spent.Hide


The Press Reviews

81% of critics recommend.
Rotten Tomatoes Score. More reviews on Rotten Tomatoes

  • BBC

    <em>Charlie Wilson's War</em> boasts an impressive arsenal of wit, sophistication and scathing political commentary. Full Review

  • Extremely enjoyable. Although it’s a little tonally unsure, whenever Hanks and Hoffman are on screen, any misgivings are forgiven. Full Review

  • To paraphrase Ronald Reagan's immortal words: there they go again. Another deeply muddled, fence-sitting, obtuse Hollywood picture about American politics, excruciatingly unsure whether to crack wise satirically, or go into a glassy-eyed patriotic celebration. It's a comedy, but with a persistent ring of phoniness and unfunniness. Full Review

  • <em>Charlie Wilson's War</em> is an anachronism, the wrong movie at the wrong time. Not only does it tell its tale in a style that feels dated and artificial, the story itself focuses on events that history has overtaken. Full Review

  • Somehow a chunk of history has been boiled down to a ninety-seven-minute movie that skims when you want it to skewer. Full Review

  • If it sounds far-fetched, director Mike Nichols' claim that Wilson and co's efforts led to the downfall of the Soviet Union is even more implausible. However, it does make for a classic "against the odds" story that elevates the spirit. Hanks, Roberts and Hoffman are clearly having fun. Hoffman, in particular, turns in another scene-stealing performance as the CIA agent... Full Review

  • <em>Charlie Wilson's War</em> is that rare Hollywood commodity these days: a smart, sophisticated entertainment for grownups. Full Review