Overlooked in the end at the Academy Awards, and not ratcheting up the box office you'd perhaps expect of a Tom Hanks movie, Charlie Wilson's War
is nonetheless a challenging, entertaining and underappreciated film, that deserves to find a bigger audience on DVD.
Starring Hanks in the title role, the strength of Charlie Wilson's War is in some talented people doing what they do best. Hanks eases into his part, as the Texas congressman who uses his extensive contacts book and unorthodox nature (which is putting it mildly) to initiate and wage a secret war. Alongside him is Julia Roberts on fine form in a small part, and the excellent Phillip Seymour Hoffman, who is at the heart of the film's best, and funniest, moments.
Gluing Charlie Wilson's War together is an assured turn behind the camera from veteran director Mike Nichols. Nichols, still best known for The Graduate, is confident enough to let the comedy in a deathly serious story play out, while not shirking the drama either. It's a tender balancing act, that only flusters a little near the end.
It's not a perfect film, and the tone may be a little uneasy for some. But Charlie Wilson's War is, nonetheless, a very strong piece of American cinema, that has questions to ask, and manages to entertain at the same time. Well worth discovering. --Jon Foster
Oscar nominated drama starring Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts and Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Based on the book by George Crile, the movie tells the story of how one congressman who loved a good time, one Houston socialite who loved a good cause and one renegade CIA agent who loved a good fight conspired to bring about the largest covert operation in history. In the early 1980s, Charlie Wilson (Hanks) is a womanising US congressional representative from Texas. With the help of maverick CIA agent, Gust Avrakotos (Hoffman), Wilson dedicates his political efforts to supply the Afghan mujahideen with the weapons and support required to defeat the Soviet Union. However, Charlie eventually learns that military victory can only be achieved at a great price.
The first time the audience sees Texas congressman Charlie Wilson (Tom Hanks) in the early 1980s, he seems far from a model politician. Surrounded by strippers, a Playboy Playmate, and cocaine, the naked congressman lies in a hot tub at a party. Despite the distractions, the TV news catches Charlie's attention as Dan Rather reports from a war-torn Afghanistan. As Soviets invade the country, the Afghans lack the money and technology to defend themselves. Enter Joanne Herring (Julia Roberts), a wealthy Texan who champions the cause of Afghanistan and, by extension in the Cold War, America. Together with CIA Agent Gust Avrakotos (Philip Seymour Hoffman), Charlie begins a secret war where he must unite Israel, Pakistan, Egypt, and America to defeat the Soviets.
Just as director Mike Nichols brought a sense of fun to what should have been dour proceedings in films such as The Graduate
, this comedy about the largest covert war to date never feels like a history lesson. Writer Aaron Sorkin's dialogue is sharp and it's delivered with impressive verve from the film's trio of Oscar winners. Hoffman is famous for transforming into various characters, and he's remarkable, but it's Hanks's turn that's the most surprising. Outwardly, Charlie could resemble many of Hanks's previous roles, but the actor adds layers to the character and changes without the aid of makeup or prosthetics.
Tom Hanks Charlie Wilson's War