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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Great Game - not so great, not much of a game
This is a great movie, a cinematic version of Waugh's 'Scoop', but aimed oh-so-sharply at the blithe enthusiasm and well-meaning idealism that funds freedom fighters as they engage your enemy, and then wrings its hands as they metamorphose into terrorists and turn their weapons against you.

As the director of 'Catch-22', Nichols is on very secure territory...
Published on 8 Jun. 2008 by Withnail67

versus
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good film but spoiled by UNICEF fundraiser
We had great expectations of a hilarious film with a message. Although the story was gripping from the beginning, the fun really started about halfway through, when Philip Seymour Hoffman got into the action. Julia Roberts was disappointing, more reminiscent of Devil Wears Prada than the character in this film. Tom Hanks was excellent.

This was a nice mix of...
Published on 22 Aug. 2008 by James


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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Great Game - not so great, not much of a game, 8 Jun. 2008
By 
Withnail67 (UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Charlie Wilson's War [DVD] (DVD)
This is a great movie, a cinematic version of Waugh's 'Scoop', but aimed oh-so-sharply at the blithe enthusiasm and well-meaning idealism that funds freedom fighters as they engage your enemy, and then wrings its hands as they metamorphose into terrorists and turn their weapons against you.

As the director of 'Catch-22', Nichols is on very secure territory. This film, and the book that inspired it are salutary satirical warnings against the dangers of nation building.

Hanks's urbane and engagingly predatory Representative sharks his way through 1980s Washington, and forms part of an unlikely trio that includes Right-wing ideologue Julia Roberts and troubled CIA agent Philip Seymour Hoffman. Wilson becomes aware of the need to support the anti-Communist mujahdeen in Afghanistan, and uses every kind of leverage to boost their funding.

Hoffman steals the film with a great performance, and Hanks isn't far behind. Roberts disappoints, not really due to her acting, more to the difficulty of making such a downright odd character accessible.

There are come cute references to the early 80s (Bowie singing 'Let's Dance' a bit anachronistic as I recall) and a great small part by the luminous Emily Blunt. The sub-Airwolf special effects are most charitably regarded as symbolic of the protagonists cartoon-level attitude to the violence they're organising. The chilling reference to the bitter fruit of the failed state of Afghanistan on 11/9/2001 is well done.

A great war film; 'Mr Smith goes to Washington' for the class of '86.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly good ..., 1 Jun. 2008
By 
J. Fryar - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Charlie Wilson's War [DVD] (DVD)
I saw this film advertised, immediately thought 'Tom Hanks? Nah ...', and let it slip through the cinema releases without seeing it. It was certainly an error of judgement because Charlie Wilson's War is a great movie.

The plot is based on the true story of Charlie Wilson (Tom Hanks), a coke-snorting, hard drinkin', womanising Texas senator who teams up with CIA operative Gust Avrakotos (Philip Seymour Hoffman), and sixth-wealthiest- woman-in-Texas Joanne Herring (played beautifully by Julia Roberts). They subsequently engineer the largest covert operation in US history, supplying freedom fighters with the weaponry they need to fight the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

'Charlie Wilson's War' is a mix of charismatic charactors, cynical humour and drama, with some fine acting by Hanks and Hoffman and a wider chemistry evident across the entire cast; CWW is the type of film you watch and just know the actors are relishing their roles and having a great time. It's funny and cerebral, while also showing us the murky side of how the world really works behind the scenes. It's an entertaining and accomplished piece of film making, but not without its problems.

Director Mike Nichols seems comfortable sitting in his 'Catch-22' war-comedy roots, and never really tackles head on the issues the film raises. In particular, the ending (where we, the audience, can retrospectively look back at the historical events and know the direction it goes) seems tacked on, as if to temper the somewhat jingoistic slant the film has for much of its length.

The film also falls into the Sorkin-esque trap where, although the dialogue is great, it's sputtered out at a Kalashnikov rate ... the old US tact of conveying the intelligence of characters by making them speak incredibly quickly. In parts, as with the West Wing, you'll have to rewind to catch what they said and when you do you'll find a reference to US politics that most non-US citizens won't quite understand.

Generally though, an excellent film that is bound to surprise you if you haven't seen it. Not one for the kids or the instant gratification brigade ... but a few movies like this are always a good thing to break up the summer blockblusters.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Charlie Wilson's War, 24 Nov. 2009
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This review is from: Charlie Wilson's War [DVD] (DVD)
Charlie Wilson's War has to be one of those films destined to stand the test of time. It's one of those films where everything seems to just work so well; the casting, direction, pacing and screenplay. It contains a serious history that is entertaining and is a background to one of the most contentious issues of our time: the war on terror.

Set during the 80s, we see the rise of a very unlikely individual, senator Charlie Wilson, who was almost the single cog around which the biggest covert military operation in history would revolve. Charlie, on hearing that the strategically important Afghanistan was being invaded by America's Communist enemies, uses all his contacts and all his favours in Congress to bring about the funding of Afghans in order to repel the Soviet invaders. Afghanistan in the 80s turned into Russia's Vietnam, and Afghanistan would claim yet another Empire. Afghanistan being known as the land 'where empires go to die...'

This is a dialogue based film, and the pacing is quick. There is much information flying by, but it is often witty which bars it from becoming too 'heavy.' The scenes with Charlie visiting the refugee camp in Pakistan cannot fail to rally you to the Afghanis cause. But I defy other reviewers who think they're above this film, simply because they've read a book or two about it and know more than is contained in this film. Personally, it is always nice to see history-based films tie up everything into entertaining little packages. It is slightly bemusing to see people disparage a film, because it wouldn't qualify as a definitive source of information for a university essay...?

The first time I watched this film was when I borrowed it from a friend. It was so engaging I watched it one evening after the next before handing it back. A short while later I bought the film and have watched it quite a few times since, and each time something new emerges.

As an introduction to the end of the Cold War, and the beginning of a new phase in history - the rise of radical Islam - I can think of no introduction more intriguing.

As a footnote: In political discussions this event in history is an important one. Many Useful Idiots claim that because the CIA funded the Afghanis, America is responsible for creating al-Qaida. Even though there is a lot that is excluded from the film, it is still mentioned that the Saudis matched any figure the Americans put up to buy weapons. The funds were given to the Pakistani's to channel covertly to the Afghanis. What is not mentioned is Zia ul-Haq's role in deciding which Afghanis received the arms; namely the Taliban and those who were eventually to become al-Qaida. Nor does the film mention that oil-rich Saudi Arabia continued to fund the Taliban and al-Qaida, fuelling civil war there which tore the country apart, long after the CIA left.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good film but spoiled by UNICEF fundraiser, 22 Aug. 2008
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This review is from: Charlie Wilson's War [DVD] (DVD)
We had great expectations of a hilarious film with a message. Although the story was gripping from the beginning, the fun really started about halfway through, when Philip Seymour Hoffman got into the action. Julia Roberts was disappointing, more reminiscent of Devil Wears Prada than the character in this film. Tom Hanks was excellent.

This was a nice mix of entertainment, thrill and political message. The exchanges between Hanks and Hoffman are very funny. The film gives a light-hearted insight into the American political and lobbying system, contrasted with the more serious side of war, as seen in the refugee camps. Then at the end of the film we are reminded about what happened after Russia pulled out of Afghanistan. This is pointedly brought out in the scene on the balcony. Do watch out for it. It leaves you thinking.

But the real negative of this DVD is the forced UNICEF AIDS fundraising sequence at the beginning. It lasts 4 minutes and cannot be stopped, paused, fast-forwarded or turn off. And whatever you do, don't touch the menu key while you are watching the film otherwise you have to endure the whole 4 minute sequence again. Personally, I would not buy this DVD knowing what I know now. Emails to Universal Studios about it just bounce back.

So, in summary, quite a good film but not good enough to live with the UNICEF sequence at the beginning. No matter how much you might respect the work of UNICEF.
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49 of 54 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Great film - bad DVD, 29 July 2008
By 
Carol Haynes (North Yorkshire UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Charlie Wilson's War [DVD] (DVD)
OK let's get it straight I really enjoyed the film. The start of the film was a bit slow and confused (I really wasn't that interested to explore Charlie's predilections for nudes in spar tubs) but once the reason for the story is made known it is gripping and moves at a pace that keeps you interested and ultimately moved until the end. The great thing was showing what a few individuals can achieve in the face of international lethargy and disinterest.

It was good to meet the real Charlie in the extras but why did that have to effectively have a 'Making Of ...' and then a shorter 'Meet Charlie Wilson' that has identical footage of Charlie and nothing new?

So a good film so why only 2 stars. As other people have pointed out I absolutely hate this DVD - you have to sit through nearly 4 minutes of a UNICEF campaign for Aids in Africa. There is no option to skip or fast forward through it. Then you get nearly a minute of loud noise about video piracy (which I object to as I just bought the damn thing - why treat ME as a pirate when pirates can easily strip the crap) and then to add insult to injury there is a further copyright notice. OK we finally get to the film but for heaven's sake don't press the menu button on your handset during the film or you have to endure the whole lot again - it doesn't even go straight to the menu.

What is the net effect of all this - people will copy the DVD just to remove the crap so they can watch the film in peace. This totally negates the charity appeal stuff and the copyright notices and turns users in to copyright infringers because of the publishers own stupidity!

Don't get me wrong I thing publicising the work of UNICEF in Africa is laudable and I wouldn't mind it being on the disc (even though the disc has nothing to do with UNICEF or Africa or Aids) provided it is in the extras section and is optional.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A delightful lesson in modern histroy, 20 Jun. 2009
By 
Uenna (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Charlie Wilson's War [DVD] (DVD)
Before I purchased this DVD, I knew nothing of the Afghan war or of the role of America in it. This DVD was not only an enjoyable and well acted drama; it was a great lesson in world history. It was good to see Julia Roberts come back from a long hiatus with such a convincing performance in the role of the rich Texan Blondie with a quirky sense of humour and authority. Tom Hanks as usual was awesome in the lead role as Charlie Wilson, and Phillip Seymour Hoffman was superb as the eccentric reporter.

The DVD extra footage which shows the real Charlie Wilson's documentary titled `Who is Charlie Wilson' was fantastic, a great and worthy addition to an already superb DVD. The other extra feature of the DVD is the making of Charlie Wilson's war - a behind the scenes look at how it was all put together, fascinating stuff. I recommend this to all as a great movie and a well dramatised historical world event. You will love it.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Film - Bad DVD, 2 May 2009
This review is from: Charlie Wilson's War [DVD] (DVD)
First off as others have pointed out that you have to watch a 3 and a half minute advert from UNICEF, and when I have just paid for a film, I don't expect to have to watch about AIDs and HIV before I can enjoy myself. The film has a fun pace to it, but you obviously aren't going to be in the best mood for it having been forced to sit through a lecture on AIDs.

As for the film itself, ignore the critics. The critics are saying that it is all about how America, or Charlie Wilson saved the world. It isn't. It may appear that way if you don't pay attention at the end. It is likely that the events that transpired, while great, played a measurable role in establishing terrorism in Afghanistan, and the film acknowledges it. As for saying that the Soviets were the bad guys; well they were invading a country that had done no harm to them, so it's probably a fair depiction.

The film has what you would expect from an Aaron Sorkin screenplay. The dialogue is fast paced (not as fast paced and comical as I am used to from this writer, but still better than the majority) and witty. It is possible to tire of a film which is predominantly focused on talking, but if you liked the West Wing, you should be used to this style. It's a serious topic, it tells the story well, it is well acted, and it acknowledges US failed strategy. It is a film that is worth watching.

Just get the DVD running before you're ready to sit down.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars West Wing Goes Worldwide, 10 Dec. 2008
This review is from: Charlie Wilson's War [DVD] (DVD)
Virtually Maria (Virtual Trilogy)

As a great fan of Aaron Sorkin, the man who wrote West Wing, I was delighted to hear that he had penned the script for this Tom Hanks / Julia Robers vehicle that tells the story of how one slightly seedy US politician managed to engineer the defeat of the entire Russian army in Afghanisan.

The script (as you would expect from Aaron Sorkin) is intelligent and fast paced. Tom Hanks is excellent as the playboy politician who suddenly realises he can actually make an impact on the world, and Phillip Seymour Hoffman's cynical CIA superspy is a joy to behold (watch out for the glass panel scene at CIA Langley!!).

What is also notable about this movie is that it contains the serious and sobering message that, having spent billions to get the Russians out of Afghanistan, no money was allocated to rebuild the country afterwards - leaving the people at the mercy of religious fundamentalists and triggering the mess that the world is in now.

A movie to enjoy and to learn from at the same time.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly interesting movie!, 23 Oct. 2008
By 
A. Wasenczuk "speedbird2" (Hampshire, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Charlie Wilson's War [DVD] (DVD)
Worth watching just for Hoffman's character, who manages to consistently upstage the two heavyweight leads of Hanks and Roberts. This guy is completely in the spirit and period of the movie and makes the other two look like they're hamming it up something rotten.

I initially rented this and assumed the unskippable advert was only on the rental copy - bit of a shameful oversight if it's on the bought version, I think.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "...Three Years Learning Finnish!" - Charlie Wilson's War on BLU RAY, 20 April 2014
By 
Mark Barry "Mark Barry" (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Charlie Wilson's War [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
It's 6 April 1980 and Charles Nesbitt Wilson is pruning in the bubbling water of a Las Vegas Hotel Jacuzzi with some naked strippers, cocaine and glasses of champagne (standard procedure for an American Congressmen at the time). But something else other than wet areolas catches Charlie's eagle eye. Up on the mounted television set behind the bar is an unshaven Dan Rather of CBS Evening News reporting from the deserts of Afghanistan. A local woman who speaks English tells a turbaned Dan that "America is asleep..." and that if the Russians invade her country - the Gulf is next - and after that - the USA itself. Charlie (Tom Hanks) politely declines an offer to make a tasteful TV Movie with Playboy of the Month and her naked agent for $29,000 and bids them all farewell...

Back at his office in Texas (which oddly enough is peopled with three large-chested women sporting buttons in their blouses that can't seem to be closed) - Charlie makes enquiries with his assistant Bonnie (Amy McAdams) into the covert ops budget for the dirt-country in the Middle East with no real political friends (America included). He doesn't like what he hears and as a Congressman for the House of Representatives - he determines to change all that nonsense by doubling its budget from five million dollars to ten. And so it begins...

Along the way Charlie meets with the 6th wealthiest woman in Texas - the wildly patriotic and determined sexpot Joanne Herring (a stunning Julia Roberts eating up a proper role) and a Greek CIA operative Gust Avrakotos (another genius portrayal from the greatly missed Philip Seymour Hoffman) who has anger issues with his bosses and hasn't been killed across 4 continents in 24 years by people who know how to (dialogue above). So far so funny...

But then it all changes when Charlie visits Afghanistan itself - and sees up close and personal what the Russian war machine is doing to defenceless Muslims. Men are being stacked in human piles and then run over by tanks as their wives are made to watch - children are dismembered with toy mines - and starving people rush grain trucks ripping open sacks in desperation. And as he walks up a hill and looks back at a Biblical scene of refugee tents with huge expanses of humanity being hammered by bullyboys - Charlie sheds a tear. And then a steely look enters his angry gaze...

What makes "Charlie Wilson's War" so good is a trio of things - the alarming and often ridiculous nature of this true modern-war story - a wickedly funny and yet touching Aaron Sorkin script - and a huge posse of Grade-A actors capable of making you chuckle one moment then shed a tear the next. The three principal leads are exceptional - especially Hanks and Hoffman - but there's also quality support from Emily Blunt, Om Puri, John Slattery, Ned Beatty, Ken Stott and Peter Gerety in small but significant roles.

The characters they portray may at times seem utterly ridiculous, meddlesome and even arrogant - but their convictions and above all their love of democracy and freedom knows no bounds. And anything that threatens that (i.e.: murderous Russians slaughtering easy pickings like peasants with pitchforks and old rifles) - is going to get short shift - and high-tech weaponry if that doesn't work.

The problem with all this 'movie entertainment' is that it clouds an obvious and stinging question - why did the CIA arm the Afghans? To give them their country back - or out of pure self-interest - they get to defeat the Soviets using another country and another people to do it? The film doesn't shirk this thorn to its credit - offering up the plausible response that it was probably a bit of both. And it also points out that in the mid Nineties the American Government lost interest once the war was won and shamefully left with the goal achieved but the 'people' stranded - not investing - not rebuilding - and thereby giving rise to massive Islamic hated towards the West - which of course has had global consequences ever since.

The BLU RAY picture quality is gorgeous throughout - a major production - and filmed in Full Aspect (1.85:1) - you get that punch of quality across the whole screen and in every shot. Audio is DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Spanish Surround 5.1. Subtitles are in English SDH, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Japanese, Brazilian Portuguese, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Greek, Korean, Latin American Spanish, Norwegian, Portuguese, Swedish, Thai, Turkish and Traditional Mandarin.

Directed by Mike Nichols and adapted from George Crile's book by Aaron Sorkin - "Charlie Wilson's War" seems slight at first - but then bites into your heart - and leaves you mightily impressed.

Did Texas Mascara and a Congressman with etched leather boots (elected to the Ethics Committee when he was clearly a dubious choice for the job) actually bring the Soviet Empire to its knees and defeat Communism? Check out this superb movie and find out...
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Charlie Wilson's War [Blu-ray]
Charlie Wilson's War [Blu-ray] by Mike Nichols (Blu-ray - 2011)
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