Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Charlie Wilson's War (2007)

* * *

Compared to the weak war films of the past few years, Charlie Wilson's War stands out as the smartest, funniest, and easiest to watch. That's not saying too much, though, when you look at the competition. For having the word "war" in the title, the film, like the Cold War, has very few guns fired and focuses much more on the behind-the-scenes aspects of American politics. Starring Tom Hanks as politician Charlie Wilson, Charlie Wilson's War is based on the true story of a Texas politician and his overt and covert efforts to defeat the Soviets, chronicling from the late seventies to the end of the eighties. Director Mike Nichols (The Graduate, The Birdcage, Closer) assembled a star studded cast with Hanks, Julia Roberts, Amy Adams, and Philip Seymour Hoffman to deliver a witty script written by Aaron Sorkin (A Few Good Men, The West Wing). The Charlie Wilson character is perfectly suited for Hanks who embodies the southern playboy congressman's clever and charming personality. Roberts and Adams hold their own alongside Hanks as his love interest and assistant, respectively, but once again Hoffman steals the screen and is clearly the best actor in the film despite being only a supporting character. As an obnoxious CIA agent and Wilson's partner and, at times, antagonist, Hoffman turns an average character into a memorable one with a nuanced performance equal parts funny and annoying. If only more actors could bring such depth to characters as Hoffman does; in any size part the story is enhanced by his intricate approach to his roles. The film is to the point, running right on time around 100 minutes, and for the right audience is thoroughly entertaining. Nichols manages to make a decade of political struggle and slow progress fun to watch by only including the important parts of the story, particularly the parties, sex, spying, and backhanded deals. The film isn't that thought provoking and comes across more as a "can-you-believe-this" true story than a reflection on the Cold War or politics in general. For some this will be refreshing, as Hanks and Hoffman together on screen are great fun, and for others it will be too run of the mill. Charlie Wilson's War doesn't fail on any levels, and succeeds in telling a story most people didn't know about in a way that will keep their attention.

Good for: people who study history, politicos, fans of true stories

Bad for: people who dislike politics, uptight people

The Gallery
The Economist: * * *

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