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"Charlie Wilson's War" is a 2007 American Biographical comedy drama based around the true story of US congressman Charlie Wilson and his quest to gain US support for the Afghan mujahideen during the Russian invasion, it's directed by Mike Nichols and stars Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams.
Charlie Wilson ( Tom Hanks ) is a democratic congressman for Texas who has some unorthodox methods but is generally a good politician, recently after a trip to Vegas his personal life comes under scrutiny by then federal prosecutor Rudolph Guiliani for Cocaine use and associating with prostitutes.
During this time Charlie meets with friend and occasional romantic interest Joanne Herring ( Julia Roberts ) a Houston TX socialite who brings to Charlie's attention the plight of the Afghan people and the ongoing Russian invasion of Afghanistan, she encourages Charlie to visit Pakistan to meet with the Prime Minister, who in turn take Charlie to a refugee camp, moved by what he has seen Charlie vows to drum up US support for the Afghan mujahideen ( The rebels fighting the Russian army ).
As part of his effort Charlie befriends maverick CIA agent Gust Avrakotos (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and enlists him and his staff to help come up with a better strategy to assist the Afghan people.
I wasn't sure what to expect from Charlie Wilsons War, as it seemingly takes a politician most people have never heard of and thrusts him into the limelight and turns him into a movie hero, but that is where the success of the movie lies and its genius, it successfully does just that, turn a seemingly unknown real figure from US politics and makes him interesting.
Obviously one of the strongest parts of the movie is the heavyweight cast of actors, in particular Julia Roberts, Phillips Seymour Hoffman and Tom Hanks, each playing their roles extremely well, in particular Hanks comes across as truly believable in the role of the maverick politician who on the surface seems to be more interested in sleeping with as many women as possible and partying as much as he can, but who actually has the legislative power to effect real change within his government and make a difference.
Also of note is Phillip Seymour Hoffman who is truly one of the best character actors of our time, he plays the part so well and is so believable as the gruff CIA operative who while its hard to tell initially, you know he's played his part in many shady operations in the past and is actually a very effective person.
The storyline is great and if you know your history as you're watching the movie you know where its going to end up, we all know that the US funded the mujahideen who eventually defeated the Russian army ( in their biggest defeat to date ), but because we didn't effectively follow up on the strategy in Afghanistan the country was allowed to fall into the hands of the Taliban ( and we all know what happened next ).
However getting past the politicial doctrine, we're left with a great well written well directed movie that does have some merit as a portrayal of history, but equally has merit as a great Comedy- Drama movie with a cast of actors giving a masterclass in how to juggle both of the aforementioned aspects of acting.
Well worth adding to your collection and well worth investing 100 minutes of your time !!
- Cast/Credits -
- Story -
Charlie Wilson's War depicts Charlie Wilson, a Texas congressman, a womaniser with a love of drinking, partying and more, who reluctantly becomes involved with the Soviet war in Afghanistan for some shady reasons but as he becomes more involved, he's encouraged to see what effect his actions is making on the ground.
- Thoughts/Opinions -
I find it somewhat ironic when Tom Hanks plays the part of characters which live such devious lives, such as Charlie Wilson, considering from what I know of him, he's quite the opposite and indeed is supposedly a very strict father. I think that he was the right actor for this part due to a number of reasons, including his age and his look, or more his expressions in this role, playing the cool as a cucumber congressman who can (or who believes he can) sweet talk most everyone and doesn't believe that any misdemeanours (or worse) he's responsible for will catch up with him.
Its rather depressing viewing, telling the tale of a 'player' who becomes more personally attached to the war he helped back for his own selfish gain, as he's forced to see a bit of the reality behind it while visiting Afghanistan. However, don't be expecting a big epiphany and sudden turnaround from the earlier character, as he does continue to barter and seem like the bigger man but is his heart starting to rule over his head and more importantly greed? eh, I suppose thats up to you to judge.
Don't be expecting much in the way of action scenes in this movie, it mainly consists of political dialogue and is an examination of Charlies ways. I think most women would, after seeing this, be keen on giving him a bit of a slap around the chops! given his behaviour, clearly flirting with many women at the same time and being generally rather selfish - a womanising politician from Texas - shock horror(!) perhaps thats a little unfair, I'm not one who tends to be keen on stereotypes - that much is true (the saying, not the song LOL) but its also true to say that there are some scenes/dialogue which could well make you cringe with his strong Texan accent and his wily 'chat up lines', so don't say I didn't warn you.
I shouldn't make it sound as if the entire movie only features Charlie himself - given his personality, it a) wouldn't make a great deal of sense and b) it would make it rather boring I suppose. Other characters include Joanne Herring, one of the most powerful women in Texas who, of course, Charlie has his eye on for more reasons than one - Joanne is played by another 'a lister' - Julia Roberts. She's certainly no 'dumb blonde' and indeed I think the two of them played off each other so to speak, from what I remember. I think the pairing of the two actors worked quite well, although their not on screen for the entire movie. Another character in the movie is Bonnie Bach, who's played by Amy Adams, who is frustrated as she discovers Charlie's 'ways' - she's a bit more naive and again, her performance is alright. The main non-female secondary role is played by Philip Seymour Hoffman as Gust Avrakotos, who you could describe as a bit of a whistle blower, someone who's cottoned on to the fact that Charlie is no real clean man in many ways and who attempts to bring to light things that Charlie would rather not have come out. There's some pretty good dialogue between these two characters, some of which you can read here:- http://www.imdb.com/character/ch0043843/quotes though obviously be aware that its a bit of a spoiler to read them all if you've not seen the movie but yes, he is a key character too and its interesting to see how the two of them interact (I quickly scanned the link above, there doesn't appear to be any very strong language in the quotes so it should be ok to link to).
Now I haven't mentioned yet what this review title hints to but I will now - the air is blue - yes, this isn't the movie for you if your offended by strong language, so count yourself warned. Its not a tirade of the most vulgar language right throughout but I couldn't help but pick up on the fact that many scenes do feature some fast dialogue containing numerous moderate to strong instances of bad language and I felt I ought to specifically mention that.
- Would I Reccomend It? -
Yes, I feel that this is well made movie with some a listers that give decent performances. Whether or not you'd really enjoy it as a film in general will of course depend on your personal tastes, which is why it can be difficult to decide whether or not to recommend each movie that I review here on Ciao - I can say yes definitely see this movie about one that I particularly liked but it could be that it doesn't appeal to your sense of humour and so its hard to say for sure.
All I can say is that I found it slightly off putting when I learnt what Charlie was really like, then again I'll admit that I didn't know a great deal about this movies plot before I watched it and there wasn't much in the way of action, indeed the plot isn't really particularly fast paced or thrilling, yet it is one of those movies where as much as you watch and feel like you don't really want to know (if you follow my logic), the longer it goes on for, the more your curiosity peaks and you just have to hang around to see how it pans out - although its perhaps a bit of a shame that this is spoilt in a sense, in that at the start of the movie we see Charlie about to be presented with an award and then it goes back to what happened in the past in the lead up to this event - although you wonder if things may change - still I did feel like I wanted to watch how it panned out, ultimately, so in that regard its quite good.
If you like movies such as this and it peaks your interest then I'd recommend it - it has some interesting characters and features a few a listers which provide pretty decent performances, so I can't fault it for that. Just be aware that the air is very much blue, so if your offended by swearing then this is probably not for you.
I hope you found my review useful, thanks for reading it and thanks for all rates and comments. This review was originally posted on Ciao UK.
note: also appears in part on Flixster and The Student Room
Charlie Wilson's War is based on the true story of one Charlie Wilson (Tom Hanks), a United States Congressman who aided in bringing the Cold War to an end. Whilst I expected a smart satire, what the film delivered beyond my expectations was an interesting piece from a character perspective, most notably the depiction of Hanks' Wilson. He's a man who seems to care for the world and hopes to change the face of war-torn regions and such, but is also a hedonist, with his motivation in life largely being towards pleasure. He has to balance these two factors, and doesn't always manage to do so properly - it reminds me a lot of real politics, where we always decry our leaders, but sort of an automaton doing the job, we (sadly?) have to deal with very human people that make myriad mistakes.
Joanne Herring (Julia Roberts) does challenge his outlook somewhat however, giving him a very real look at the devastation of war that he has only previously imagined from behind his comfy desk chair. He decides to help the Afghans arm up during the Cold War, and teams up with Herring and insane CIA agent Gust Avrakotos (Philip Seymour Hoffman), who is the absolute treat of the film, with his utterly ridiculous get up and very, very short temper.
Although it's cleverly written, this wouldn't be much without its cast, who really make the best interpretations of the material possible to make it both clever and accessible - it's quite complex plot-wise, so it needs such skilled actors to bring it home to those who aren't as politically and historically informed as the writers.
Smart, witty and funny, this politicomedy, whilst at times disorientating, survives on the strength of Hanks' performance, and the hilarity of Phillip Seymour Hoffman's get-up. Very entertaining if you enjoy subtle humour and are willing to ignore any emblematic or allegorical readings of the narrative.
Oddly described as "Brilliantly Funny" on the DVDs front cover, Charlie Wilson's War stars Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts and Philip Hoffman as three influential figures who manage to extend US government funding on Afganistanian weapons from $5 million to $2 billion. Why? you ask.. well its so they can defeat the stinking Soviet Empire, thats why!
Tom Hanks plays Congressman Charlie Wilson who discovers the Afgan's position in the war against Communism whilst bathing naked in a hot-tub with two strippers. On his way back to the office, Charlie decides to double the amount of money USA was sending to Afganistan for weapon and ammunition manufacture for fighting the Soviets. After discussing the situation with a close-friend (and possible lover) Joanne Herring (Julia Roberts), Charlie discovers Joanne's passion for the war, and how she is more than active in aiding the effort in helping Afganistan.
She arranges for Charlie to meet the President of Afganistan, as well as a depressed, ex-spy (Hoffman) who had been assigned by the US government to 'sort-out' the Soviet problem with a few other guys! .. and this is a true story! From then on the trio's look gains in pace, until finally money and weapons start flowing into Afgan control like warm water down a pipe angled at 45 degrees! .. thats one hell of a flow.
Tom Hanks ... Charlie Wilson
Amy Adams ... Bonnie Bach
Julia Roberts ... Joanne Herring
Philip Seymour Hoffman ... Gust Avrakotos
Terry Bozeman ... CIA Award Presenter
Brian Markinson ... Paul Brown
Jud Tylor ... Crystal Lee
Hilary Angelo ... Kelly
Cyia Batten ... Stacey
A great account of a very true and very real story which eventually lead to victory in Afganistan, the ONLY country ever to defeat the Soviet Union.
What came next was something the American's didn't anticipate, for the Afgan's to use the US funded arms against them... oh crap!
This true story is set during the Russian invasion of Afghanistan and stars Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts. Hanks playes the character Charlie Wilson a US Congressman who is more interested in partying than politicing, Roberts plays a rich woman who persudaes Wilson to get involved in the troubles in Afghanistan and this he does as he enlists the help of a CIA agant however it is his personal lifestyle that gets in the way of what he is trying to achieve.
A lot of the film focuses on his struggle to raise the money needed to aid the Afghans in their war effort, funny that some of the very people he helped are now on the other side shooting at British and American soldiers.
While Roberts and Hanks perform perfectly adaequately for me it is Phillip Seymour Hoffman as the CIA agent who steals the show with the power of his performance. At times this film reminded me a bit of Salvador when you see the scenes of sufferring and it is an interesting slant on the Russian Afghan war and far more informative than the film where Rambo managed to kill half the Russian army on his own.
This is an excellent film and at just over 90 minutes in length did a good job of holding my attention throughout.
Charlie Wilson's War is a film which I had been undecided about for a few weeks so I finally took the plunge and bought it. I think the deciding factor was that it stared Tom Hanks and Julie Roberts, both of which I like.
The film features Charlie Wilson, played by Tom Hanks who is a party loving Congress man. He is good friends with Joanne who is a rich Socialite, played by Julia Roberts. Joanne manages to talk Charlie into looking at the troubles in Afghanistan where they are being invaded by the Russians. Charlie goes and sees the troubles first hand and is shocked at what he finds. He does agree to help Joanne by getting the weapons and ammunition which they need to defend their country. To do this Charlie is helped by a CIA agent, Gust Avrakotos and soon finds he needs to persuade the Congress to give them large amounts of money.
Charlie soon comes under attack about his private life but fortunately for him this takes matters away from his work for Afghanistan and so is to his advantage is a silly sort of way. Will Charlie be able to get the money he needs when the total keeps rising, starting out at $10 million and soon ending up at nearly half a billion and will the weapons be used correctly for the Afghan people to defeat the Russians?
I was very impressed with this film. It is based on true events which makes it much more watch able for me. I will admit that as I was only young when this film was set I was unaware of the troubles which were going on over there so this film brought them to my attention.
I thought that Tom Hanks played the role of Charlie Wilson very well and his character was very believable. I have to say that he has aged somewhat since the last film which I saw him in but he does not seem to have lost any of his ability to portray his character. Julia Roberts was also very good in her role and she came across very well. The on screen chemistry between the two was very good and believable.
Philip Seymour Hoffman who played the part of the CIA agent, Gust was also great in his role as the hard nosed agent who stands for no crap. I though the scene where he is having an argument with his boss was vr3y entertaining but I feel his character did slightly simmer down during the film to a point where he seemed to be a different man from the one we met at the beginning of the film.
The scenes which were shot showing the suffering in Afghan were at some point quite sad as we see children who have lost their arms from bombs which they believed were toys on the ground only to discover they were not when they picked them up. I thought the adults who were spoken to managed to put their suffering across in a very poignant way and at times I did feel extremely sorry for them.
The scenes which show the Afghan people fighting against the Russians were filmed and shot with great detail and they were all believable and did not look altered or computer animated in any way.
The DVD which we have does have some bonus material which includes:-
The Making of Charlie Wilson's War - An inside look at the making of the film featuring interviews with Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts.
Who is Charlie Wilson? - A Profile of the real Charlie Wilson, featuring interviews with Charlie Wilson, Joanne Herring, Tom Hanks, Aaron Sorkin and Mike Nichols.
I have not got around to watching these bonus features yet but I am keen non watching the interview with the real Charlie Wilson to see if he feels his actions have played a part in the troubles which are going on over there today. I will update this review when I have watched it.
The DVD was Produced by Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman and Directed by Mike Nichols. The film has a running time of 1 hour and 38 minutes which I feel is a great length and I did not find I was loosing interest at any point and willing it to end. The certificate on the film is a 15 which I feel is vary suitable as there is lots of bad language.
I paid £5 for my DVD from Tesco which I feel is a bargain price. I do recommend this film as it has a great story which is based on true events and Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts are at their acting best.
Director: Mike Nichols
Screenplay: Aaron Sorkin
Book: George Crile
Genre: Biography - Drama
Released: 5th May, 2008 (DVD)
Tom Hanks (Charlie Wilson)
Amy Adams (Bonnie Bach)
Julia Roberts (Joanne Herring)
Philip Seymour Hoffman (Gust Avrakotos)
In the early 1980's, the USA was smack in the middle of a cold war with Russia. While The USA was keeping a close watch on Russia's growing army and tensions were at there highest, the Russians invaded Afghanistan in an attempt to enrich themselves with the country's crude oil. Because Afghanistan did not have an acting army, it was down to the people to defend themselves against the Russians... not an easy task considering that they didn't have the necessary weapons to fight. With the Russians literally massacring the people of Afghanistan from the air with their helicopters and airplanes, the USA watched and waited... until Congressman Charlie Wilson, after having seen a news report detailing the horrors suffered by the people in Afghanistan, made it his business to do something.
Although literally unknown, Charlie Wilson was not a man without high-placed friends... therefore, using the rule of thumb; "You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours," he managed to increase the CIA's covert operations budget from 5 million to 10 million, hoping it would be enough to cripple the Russian army in Afghanistan. Wilson was only too aware of how volatile and dangerous the situation was, and knew, as did all the other politicians at the time, that if Russia managed to conquer oil-rich Afghanistan, it was only a matter of time before they came after the USA. He also knew that the only way to keep the USA from being drawn into a war against Russia was to covertly assist Afghanistan in fighting their joint enemy... which was why the CIA had been sent in on a covert operation.
Although Wilson's first thought was to cripple the Russian army, his feelings quickly changed when he visited an Afghanistan refugee camp in Pakistan. Seeing for himself the horrors inflicted upon the Afghanistan people by the Russians, he went straight to the CIA and asked them what they would need in order to destroy Russian helicopters and airplanes in Afghanistan... to which the CIA responded that they didn't want anything - they were acting covertly, and they intended it to stay that way. Meaning that, with their 10 million budget, they intended to do absolutely nothing! Disgusted, Wilson decided to take matters into his own hands, and by pulling a few strings here and there, he did what no one else ever could... he helped Afghanistan defeat the Russians. Unfortunately, once the Russians were defeated, the USA made the biggest mistake... they withdrew all funds from Afghanistan and left the country, with a majority of people under the age of 14, to fend for themselves. Although they had spent over 500 million to help Afghanistan defeat the Russians, they were not prepared to spend 1 million in order to build schools and hospitals. Had they spent the 1 million, as Wilson urged, American and allied forces would not now be fighting in Afghanistan and being killed by American weapons!
'Charlie Wilson's War' is an extraordinary look into the workings of politics... the secrecy, the bartering, the underhanded scheming - and a shocking reminder to everyone that even the president of a country can be unaware of what's going on under his nose! The truth is, politicians, be they senators, congressmen, delegates, ministers, presidents, etc., are not averse to a bit of scheming and underhandedness. Shockingly enough, the millions Wilson raised in order to help the people of Afghanistan were made possible by a deal with Pakistan to release a blind woman from their prison! What does that have to do with Afghanistan and Russia... you'll have to watch the movie to find out!
This is an extraordinary movie, so brilliantly acted... Tom Hanks was extraordinary, so convincing, so charismatic as a womanizing congressman that regardless that his character is flawed, it's those flaws that make him so downright likeable - and his relationships with high-profile politicians and presidents is as fascinating to watch as his relationships with hookers and prostitutes! I kid you not... watching Charlie Wilson is an adventure in itself!
And what can I say about Philip Seymour Hoffman who plays Gust Avrakotos, the loud and boisterous CIA agent who is both a philosopher and a rogue? Totally brilliant! The acting is spectacular, the dialogue so clever and brusque that you can't help but laugh out loud... the duo Wilson and Avrakotos are a perfectly imperfect match, and so darned potent.
The acting in this movie is second to none, it is sheer brilliance and just so fascinating to watch. It doesn't matter, if like me, you hate political movies... the storyline is so engrossing, so shocking that you can't help but be transported into a political world that is more soap opera than anyone could ever have imagined. The intrigues, the underhandedness... and the knowledge that this movie is based on a true story is absolutely mind-boggling!
This is one movie that shouldn't be missed. The storyline is extraordinary, the acting superb, and the dialogue is... priceless.
Charlie Wilson: These things happened. They were glorious and they changed the world... and then we fu**ed up the endgame.
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How ironic that the Muslim militias that America secretly armed through Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia in the 1980s to kick the communist Russians out of Afghanistan, the movie theme here, are now America's biggest enemies, the irony doubled by the fact the same Russians are now arming the Afghans to kick America out of that God forsaken country!
What Americans didn't know at the time is just how complicit the C.I.A and the US Senate were back then in arming the then Taliban, in retrospect, a fatal alliance that would bite America in the butt some twenty-five years later on 911, which some cynics say was also a covert operation between Muslim fanatics and the C.I.A so they could do it all over again...
Congressman Charlie Wilson, played excellently by Tom Hanks here, was the man who initiated the secret funding of the Afghan militias in the 70s and 80s, eventually to the sum of two billion dollars a year, although in the film he and the act are painted as a patriotic and uncomplicated mission, one would presume so to soften the blow for a mainstream unsophisticated American cinema audience. In real life it was far more complex and grubby affair and like in Iraq and Afghanistan today, oil and natural gas were the main drivers for the war by proxy. Any conflict in the Muslim region is always about oil and guns.
What Wilson basically did was find third parties to buy arms illicitly from with money secretly raised through the US senate to allow the CIA to get the sophisticated weapons on the ground in Afghanistan through Pakistan so to be able to shoot down the deadly Russian helicopters and pierce the far superior enemy tanks and trucks.
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Zvi: You want me to steer Israel towards an arms deal with Egypt, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia?
Charlie Wilson: Yes.
Zvi: Well, just one or two problems with that, just off the top of my head.
Charlie Wilson: Zvi...
Zvi: Afghanistan and Pakistan don't recognize our right to exist, we just got done fighting a war against Egypt and everyone who has ever tried to kill me or my family has been trained in Saudi Arabia!
Gust Avrakotos: That's not true, Zvi. Some of them were trained by us.
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The first big plus in the film that impacts, apart from the acting, is the screenplay, written by the brilliant Aaron Sorkin, the creator of the mind bogglingly good and now defunct West Wing television series. Although he doesn't unleash his most caustic pen the script is smartly funny and knowing for West Wing fans and so engages a more intelligent audience here. If a political film is too complex, like Syriana, it will bomb-excuse the pun-in US multiplexes.
The screenplay is based on George Crile's biography of Congressman Charlie Wilson, both helping out as consultants on the film, guaranteeing that what you are seeing isn't far from what actually happened or, at least, what Wilson wants you to think, happened.
Wilson was a bit or ladies man and liked his vices back in the day, of which he was nearly indicted for on three separate occasions, nearly going down for death by dangerous driving. Charlie Wilson's aides in his Senate office were all beautiful well-endowed women nicknamed "Charlie's Angels". You can guarantee the powers that be still have him by the short and curlies today on keeping stuck on what really happened, and like Hollywood film makers, the CIA never tell the whole story. As Wilson said himself in the film extras:' anything I might have objected to in the film was probably provable".
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Charlie's Angel #1: Yes sir?
Reporter: It seems to me lookin' around, that it's almost all women workin' here; and that they're all very pretty. Is that common?
Charlie's Angel #1: Well... Congressman Wilson, he has an expression. He says uhh, "You can teach them to type, but you can't teach them to grow tits." .
x x x x The Cast x x x x
Tom Hanks ... Charlie Wilson
Amy Adams ... Bonnie Bach
Julia Roberts ... Joanne Herring
Philip Seymour Hoffman ... Gust Avrakotos
Terry Bozeman ... CIA Award Presenter
Brian Markinson ... Paul Brown
Jud Tylor ... Crystal Lee
Hilary Angelo... Kelly
Cyia Batten ... Stacey
Kirby Mitchell ... Stoned Guy
Ed Regine ... Limo Driver
Daniel Eric Gold ... Donnelly
x x x x The Plot x x x x
The film begins with Wilson being awarded with a Congressional Medal of Honor for his role in the Afghanistan victory, a nod to the audience that nothing particularly bad is going to happen and this is a feel good movie - America won't be losing this time. We then flashback to where all the subterfuge began as we are introduced to the colorful congressman in question in a Jacuzzi in Vegas with lots of beautiful women, hard drugs, and anything else he wants only an arms length away from the bubbles and bubbly. Its here he sees a news report on the TV about the brutal war in Afghanistan between the invading Russian and the Afghani Mujahadeen, our first introduction to his interest in a cause that would soon dominate his life, although his interest, apparently, only in the sick and displaced.
We then meet beautiful Texan socialite Catherine Herring (Julia Roberts), a prominent and very wealthy lady in big hat cattle country who gets what she wants. And not only does she desire the playboy congressman but wants him to help her influential group of rightwing Christian fundamentalists plan to help the Afghanis to beat the Russians in a war Americans care little about. Wilson is a very popular congressman and prides himself on being a fixer, not in the pockets of any lobby group as he neither asks for nor wants anything as his seat is very safe and he wins votes by doing other congressman's fixing. That is why when he finally asks for a favor in congress he will be able to get the money through what ever means to secretly arm the Afghans with American tax dollars, the current budget of 10 million needing to be increased 100 fold.
Charlie's go to guy is CIA man, Agent Gus Avrakotos (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), a rather scruffy and petulant career agent who works the Afghani desk and about to be demoted to the Helsinki desk because of that. He thinks Wilson's plan to smuggle arms in can work and with Herrings early support, a plan of attack is proposed. At the moment the C.I.A`s policy in Afghanistan has been to contain the Russians in an attritional guerilla war, arming the Afghans with world war two rifles and let the Russians use up firepower and men bombing dust for the next ten years trying to bore them out of there, distracting Russian military resources from other frontlines. But with Wilson on board the C.I.A can get money and start buying advanced kit, leveling up the fight, weapons that will allow the Afghans to shoot down the indestructible HIND helicopters with deadly heat seeking 'Stinger' missiles. But how to get those missiles and armored piercing shells in without connecting America to it, an action, if discovered, that would surely escalate the Cold War.
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Charlie Wilson: You mean to tell me that the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan is to have the Afghans keep walking into machine gun fire 'til the Russians run out of bullets?
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x x x x The Conclusion x x x x
Although the film is enjoyable for all its 102 minutes and not too dumbed down for once on what is an important military chapter in US history, director Mike Nicholls doesn't quite get to tell the real story, delivering the only version he can to turn a profit and so the edit American cinema audiences are deemed worthy of. If he did tell the real story it would be another Syriana. Americans didn't go and watch Syriana.
We just don't see any of the leads characters 'fleshed out' on their true motives in the narrative and the idea that a wealthy Texan oil magnet would only be interested in Afghanistan to solve the refugee problem in the 80s, is mildly absurd and some what patronizing. In the 1980s, as today, this plot was about political hegemony and 'The Great Game', the reshaping of the oil and gas rich regions of the world to fuel and feed the great superpowers. Why else would anyone be interested in the dustbowl that is Afghanistan? British soldiers are dying one a week on average out there, not to bring democracy in a place that hasn't seen any in one thousand years, but to secure the gas pipeline from the Caspian Sea to bypass Russia so to keep your bills down when Russia keep turning off the blood gas!
The writing is top notch for a movie and Phillip Seymour Hoffman is as brilliant and sarcastic as ever as the cranky C.I.A man, yet again stealing the film away from the lead actors, although Hanks holds his own this time, certainly a victim of being badly cast in his last few movies. What on earth was he doing in that gangster movie with Paul Newman a while back! Julia Roberts is strangely not annoying for once, that coat hanger smile beginning to sag like her tits, as her age catches up with her and the supermodel body that was her ticket into acting.
On the whole the film works and director Mike Nicholls has delivered a wholesome Ron Howard style biopic that will entertain and ask some questions to those who don't really ask them. It could have been a whole lot worse if the film was made nearer 911 and you have to say it looks like the "War on Terror" effect has worn off directors now and they don't have to make ghastly films like The World Trade Centre anymore to please patriotic American audiences.
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Joanne Herring: May I ask what it is that I've done to make you dislike me, Mr. Avrakotos?
Gust Avrakotos: I like you just fine, Mrs. Herring, it's just been my experience that when people with money and too much free time get involved in politics, pretty soon, I forget who it is I'm supposed to be shooting at.
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= = = = Special Features = = = =
The most annoying part of this DVD is this compulsory UNICEF commercial, a make-up-less Gwyneth Paltrow imploring you in poetic verse, no less, to give money for the children of the world with AIDS. Fine, that's a great cause, but I don't need a celebrity to tell me that. The irritant bit is you cant fast-forward the appeal, what ever buttons you press on your remote! And it's a bit rich to link the war in Afghanistan in the 80s to being about liberating children from a sexual transmitted disease. AIDS in Africa and the third world about promiscuity and dirty needles, something Hollywood celebrities have always reveled in----present company exempt of course Gwyneth.
-The Making of Charlie Wilson's War-
Not bad little behind the scenes piece as we get to see the real Charlie Wilson here and hear the other stars thoughts on the film. Theresa nice piece where towards the end of the movie Charlie Wilson is presented with one of the Stingers he helped provide to the Afghans. In an interview with the real Charlie Wilson, Wilson states that he still has the Stinger as it's one of his most prized possessions and it's kept in a" very honored spot in my home", again pushing the message this wasn't about what it was really about. If America was that nice they would be sorting Zimbabwe right now.
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Imdb.com scores it 7.4 out of 10.0 (30,876 votes)
RuN-TiMe 102 minutes
3 for £8 weekly deal at Blockbusters or £3.50 per week.
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Joanne Herring: Why is Congress saying one thing and doing nothing?
Charlie Wilson: Well, tradition mostly.
Charlie Wilson has little more than a passing interest in Afghanistan and the war the Russians were waging against it. Then he met Joanne Herring, a socialite who opened his eyes to the horrors that were happening - something he saw for himself when visiting a refugee camp. Along with CIA man Gust Avrakotos, Wilson spends his time and efforts trying to ensure that the Afghan mujahideen are well enough armed to fight back, which eventually helps bring about the end of the Cold War. But will his actions have serious consequences for future politics? And has anyone back in the US realised what he has been achieving?
This is not a film that I would ordinarily have chosen to see - I tend to steer clear of anything to do with politics and war, simply because I can turn on the news and get my fill any time I want to. When I want entertainment, politics and war don't usually come into it. However, I have read so many good reviews of this film, and one of my favourite actors, Philip Seymour Hoffman, has a major role, so I finally succumbed. I half wish I had listened to my original instincts - whereas the film does have a lot going for it, there was also a lot I didn't like.
Tom Hanks is Charlie Wilson, and I can't really fault him in any way. Wilson is an interesting character in that he is a womaniser and taker of drugs, yet still has the heart to want to save an entire nation of people from Russian annihilation. There is very obviously a lot more to Wilson than the film allows us to see, but this is something that I can't blame Hanks for, when he only had an hour and a half or so to get his point across. Yet, I came away from the film feeling disappointed in his performance, and I'm not really sure why. Perhaps it is simply that he is not all that likeable a character, and so I couldn't entirely get behind him and what he was doing - I didn't entirely understand his goal from watching the film, although I found a little more about him from watching the special features.
I was also slightly disappointed by Philip Seymour Hoffman, who plays Gust Avrakotos, although again, I'm not sure it is entirely his fault. Avrakotos starts off as a very strong character, throwing himself about with abandon and thinking nothing of annoying anyone who gets in his way. This was great fun to watch. But then he simmers down and becomes a bit dull. Hoffman is a great character actor - I loved him as Truman Capote - but here, I couldn't help but think he was a bit wasted. He does look completely different from normal though - full marks to the make-up department.
Julia Roberts plays Joanne Herring, and generally does a very good job - except that she has to wear this weird blonde wig that looks completely out of place. I appreciate that she was trying to look as much like the original Joanne Herring as possible, but I couldn't help but find myself being mesmerised by the hairdo and not concentrating on what she was saying. Not a good look. I think Amy Adams, who plays Wilson's assistant, outshines Roberts, if only because she looks far more natural, and therefore convincing.
I knew a little bit about the Russian/Afghan war before I saw the film, if only because I went to University with a Russian who had been injured in the fighting. However, I knew nothing about Charlie Wilson's role in the war, nor indeed that the US had helped the Afghans. And I don't think I am alone here. From that point of view, the film was very interesting - it certainly taught me something I hadn't known before. Unfortunately, time constraints couldn't do much more than pique my interest - I now need to go away and read up about it. This is where I think the film fails really, because too much happens in too short a time frame, and whereas it should have kept me glued to the screen so that I didn't miss anything, I found myself switching off and checking my watch.
Despite this, there are some really sharp lines, particularly from Avrakotos towards the beginning of the film, for which Aaron Sorkin should be commended, even if he did adapt them from George Crile's book, also called Charlie Wilson's War. A note on the rating - this is a 15 film, because of references to sex and drugs and some war scenes - children maimed by mines is never going to be easy to watch, especially for the very young. Original film is spliced in with the new, which adds to the sense of realism.
There are two special features on the disc I watched. One was a documentary about the making of the film, including interviews with all of the main cast, the writer and director. It provided some interesting background information, but I did get a bit sick of everyone saying how wonderful everyone else was. The second, on Charlie Wilson and his background, was much more worthwhile. We actually got to see the real Charlie Wilson and I learned a lot more about the reasons behind what he did. I rarely given special features a second glance, but for once, I didn't feel that I had wasted my time watching.
I can understand why people have praised this film - I think it is a worthwhile story and the acting was good. However, it isn't a film I will ever go out of my way to see again, although I will probably look out George Crile's book - it just didn't really grab me. I think if you enjoy films about war and politics, then you'll probably find it fascinating; otherwise, it's only worth seeing if you get the chance. Just about recommended.
The DVD is available from play.com for £4.99.
Running time: 102 minutes
I watched this on Friday night and came on to write a review there and then but got put off by the amount of people who had already written very succinct reports. Whether I could actually add anything of note to this was open to debate.
But here I am and I will try to hold my own amongst the many educated voices in this community.
Apart from a trailer which makes this seem as though it's going to be some sort of clever satire I really didn't know much if any of the background. But it had good reports and a good cast so that was enough for me.
'Charlie Wilson's War' is a true story of how one Charlie Wilson, 'United States Congressman' helped to bring about the end of the Cold War, and stars the ever reliable and versatile 'Tom Hanks, crowd puller 'Julia Roberts' and powerhouse performer 'Phillip Seymour Hoffman'.
Hanks plays Charlie Wilson who on first appearance is somebody concerned about what is happening around the world, evidenced by a scene in which conflict in Afghanistan is shown on a television screen at a party, but not all that prepared to do anything about it. He's clearly a playboy who keeps a low profile and reaps the benefits of what little power his position has brought him.
All this changes however, during a meeting with rich bitch socialite Joanne Herring, played by Julia Roberts, who is determined to intervene in the war between Russia & Afghanistan and challenges Charlie to see first hand, the devestation being wreaked by Soviet helicopters on Afghan villages.
Upon witnessing the events and meeting the casualties he is compelled to do something about it and from here on in uses all of his capabilities to find a way to arm the Afghans sufficiently that they can "shoot down those helicopters'. Thing is though, if anybody finds out the Americans are arming the Afghans and that Cold War is going to become a real war.
This is where 'Phillip Seymour Hoffman' comes into the picture. As CIA agent Gust Avrakotos who has a really short fuse and an infectious sense of humour, Hoffman puts in a great performance and instantly gells with Hanks as they pull the necessary strings in order to get this most covert of missions off the ground, up and running.
Hanks is so adept these days at just fitting into the skin of any character, that he wears Charlie Wilson as one would wear a new coat. Hoffman is fast becoming one of the best actors out there with not a bad film to his name and Julia Roberts....well she's not my favourite actress by any strength of the imagination but she did well enough to hold the piece together.
Going back to the trailer, where I mentioned that this appeared to be some kind of comedic satire I would say this is misleading, which to be fair is my only gripe. While there are definite moments of comedy sprinkled throughout, the subject matter is anything but funny and, for the most part it came across as a serious political/historical drama which sought to educate.
I said I only had one gripe. well I lied. The one sided view and air of propaganda which accompanies some of the film could definitely have been cut.
Overall it's worth a watch and if your knowledge of the subject matter is limited as mine was, then you just might learn something.
It's the early 1980s, the Cold War still hangs over American/Russian relations, and the Soviet army is in the process of warring with the rebel mujahideen in Afghanistan.
The mujahideen are badly equipped and the current covert funding from the US is a pittance when they are having to fight against a well-trained Russian army with its well-armoured, heavy-weaponed gunship helicopters.
Helicopters that are destroying villages and families alike.
Charlie Wilson, played by Tom Hanks, is a womanising, fast-talking Democratic Congressman, who should by all rights be at the bottom of the political ladder, but is actually on several different committees, covering both foreign policy and covert operations.
His major backer is Joanne Herring, played by Julia Roberts, a rich right-winger who convinces Charlie to go to Pakistan, to speak to the President and see the masses of people who've evacuated Afghanistan and ended up in large camps for the wounded and hungry.
The plight of the Afghans affects him immediately and he is soon on the flight back to America, convinced he must do everything in his power to not just help the now homeless people of Afghanistan, but also to give the Soviets a good thrashing.
He calls on the wisdom of Gust Avrakotos, played by Phillip Seymour Hoffman, a CIA operative who 'had nothing better to do', to work out the best way of funding the under-gunned mujahideen with aid and captured Soviet weaponary without alerting the outside world of their involvement.
If such a connection could be made, well the Cold War would become a hot one.
Hence Operation Cyclone, the largest covert CIA operation they ever undertook, which eventually turned Afganistan into Russia's Vietnam, helped destabalise the Soviet government and bring an end to the Cold War.
Well, there's a history lesson for you.
This is another one of those films my brother likes to hand over to me from time to time, and like many of these films I previously knew very little about it, other than it starred Hanks and Hoffman, and I pushed it into the DVD player with no expectations at all.
Well, I say no expectations, but of course this is an outright lie.
When I think of Tom Hanks, I immediately imagine him playing a nice, warm American guy in some sort of romantic comedy or something.
I don't immediately think of him as the eastern immigrant in "The Terminal" (even though it was a romantic comedy), or as the senile professor in "The Ladykillers", as the FBI agent in "Catch Me If You Can", the solemn gangster in "The Road to Perdition", or as the AIDS-stricken young man in "Philadelphia".
And I certainly don't think of him as "Forrest Gump".
When you look back at Tom Hanks, you realise that from 1993 onwards, he has been consistently turning into completely different characters, and isn't typecast at all.
By now he probably has his pick of the projects, but I still think of him as that 80s grinning, clumsy-hairstyled youth, so each time I meet him in a new film, I'm usually amazed at the transformation.
As I am for "Charlie Wilson's War", as he fits so well into the seemingly laid-back politician's life, with his medley of women and pick of the drugs, who underneath is a fast-talking, fast-thinking ideas man who can get things done when he puts his mind to it.
Alongside Phillip Seymour Hoffman, they build up such an incredible chemistry that I was surprised when I visited imdb.com not to find this listed as a comedy, as there are many furtive glances, one-liners and such between the pair that many scenes had me giggling.
This is down to Aaron Sorkin's screenplay of George Crile's novel.
The dialogue is so fresh and the situation so interesting that Charlie Wilson and Gust Avrakotos come across very real.
Which is more than I can say for the character Joanne Herring played by Julia Roberts.
Her support as the (implied) right-wing, rich bitch didn't come across as terribly convincing, and although I didn't want to bring it up, I kept staring at her dyed-blonde hair and thinking it just didn't suit her.
That's how shallow I'm prepared to be on this point - Roberts was failed by her hair.
Anyway, the rest of the supporting cast are quite good, even though they don't get a lot of screentime, and I found the plot very interesting, seeing as I didn't know much about the war beforehand.
Of course, the harsh message that the film ended on, even though it didn't come right out into the open and say it, was that the US giving all these weapons to the mujahideen, and then abruptly forgetting about Afghanistan, now a crippled country after the Soviet government crumbled (which was the main reason for doing it all in the first place), was the perfect recipe for the empowerment of radical fundamentalist groups and the rise of people like Osama Bin Laden.
In a way, the US brought terrorism from Afghanistan on themselves by not helping to repair the country, but it is not surprising that the main concern would always have been the downfall of Soviet Communism.
The film itself never needed to explicitly say this, the hinting is there in the final scenes, and I think it works better that way.
What the movie forgets, however, is the Russian viewpoint.
The only scene where we meet a Russian is in the cockpit of one of the gunships as he talks about domestics with his wife over the radio, while gunning down civilians and destroying homes with missiles.
No wonder this movie was banned in Russia!
The movie could easily have done without this scene, and comes across as old anti-Communist propaganda more than anything else.
Overall, I enjoyed watching this movie thoroughly and the runtime of about 100mins just flew by, solely because of Tom Hanks and Phillip Seymour Hoffman's performances.
There's a nice insight into recent history here, and lessons to be learnt, even if perhaps it is not portrayed in the best possible way.
He was an alcoholic, a drug user, a womaniser, and a congressman; but one day Charlie Wilson started a chain of events that bought acclaim, but ultimately caused America to have a terrible loss.
I can't deny that during the first portion of Charlie Wilson's War I was a little baffled, I don't consider myself to be stupid but I found a lot of the political build up to the movies main story difficult to follow. And I guess like many people watching the movie that live outside America they might feel the same. This is due to the differences between our political systems, but once you have chance to absorb what's being said, and more importantly what's actually happening slowly things start to make a lot of sense indeed.
Charlie Wilson is not painted in a particularly good light; in fact it's one of those dark lights that could be deemed to some degree as being anti-American. He is easily corrupted and to some degree you could say a pawn in a larger player's game. Regardless of his flaws however Charlie had his fans and supporters a few strong committed individuals that would probably put their life on the line to help Charlie to deliver his goals.
Tom Hanks takes on the role of Charlie and I'm really quite pleased, because although not technically a comedy it returns Hanks to his humorous roots. The humour is both obvious and quite deep, and I feel this is the sort of comedy that Hanks does quite well, it's almost like he has mastered a comedy that is in suiting with himself rather than where he was as an actor 20 years ago. Although the comedy suits him, the role does not; I was not really that convinced by his performance, he is seemingly irresistible to all women, which I find hard to believe; there are certain film stars that I have been jealous of their looks, Hanks is certainly not one of them, and I'm sure I'm not alone in my views. I must say I also looked at Hanks for the first time in his career and though "my God you're getting on" and while I appreciate that age is something that happens to all of us, Hanks seems to have aged dramatically of late, and it's not make up its just general aging.
In her first acting role for 5 years (although films were released from the actress 4 years ago, and voice work has been done since) Julia Roberts literally forces her way back on the screen. And while she has a total onscreen time of about 15 minutes she is the most likeable and most domineering force of the movie as the puppet master behind Wilson. Roberts character of Joanne Herring is the most unpleasant but likeable character of the actresses career (in my opinion of course). She has a personality of pure steel or to use Rob Lowe's terminology from About Last Night "a personality developed in a car accident". No sooner has she appeared for the first time with her awful big Cruella DeVille style hair than you realise that this is where the power lies. She treats everyone that has no power with a certain contempt. The group to get the brunt of her aggression are Charlie's faithful all girl staff who she quirkily refers to as "Sluts". Herring has the money and the connections to make Charlie a key player in America's political scene, but also the power to destroy him at the drop of a hat. Roberts is great and it's fun to watch her hair as the movie continues, not only does it change with each scene she appears in, but as the movie progresses she gets younger. Not due to any freaky special powers, but when the movie starts in 1980 plastic surgery was a new thing, as time went on and the progression and popularity grew more people got younger as does Herring in this movie. For this reason alone Roberts is an ideal candidate for the role, still capable of looking like a twenty year old, and when you see her in Afghanistan about two thirds of the way through the picture it's hard to believe a day has gone by since Pretty Woman.
One other actor worthy a mention is the excellent Phillip Seymour Hoffman complete with Elvis style hair as Gust Avakotos a similarly offensive character to complement Herring. Gust has a knack of knowing exactly what is going on even when probably he should not (usually by means of bugging). Outspoken and offensive he has no fears of those above him, talking to his employer and Charlie with utter contempt. This is exactly the sort of role he does so well, he does not have the menace he has delivered in recent roles, but verbally he is a force to be reckoned with.
I'm not going to burden this review with endless dialogue over the plot because the reality of the issue is that after what seems like an incredibly elaborate tale, it's actually really simplistic. And you can sum up the story in a sentence. What adds the pizzazz to the movie is the dialogue, off the cuff comments, brazen in your face abuse, and laugh out loud statements. Don't be put off by the political aspects, be wooed by the fact that Tom Hanks swears lot and behaves in a manner that you don't associate with the actor. And watch it for the best movie come back (for Julia Roberts) that I have seen in a very long time. All this being said, this is only an average movie and although I would watch it again, it won't be for a long time.
Charlie Wilson is a Texan politician famed for his hard-drinking, hard-living ways; famed for getting things done in politics and desired by all the women around him. Secure in his place in the world, he focuses entirely on representing his state, with little interest in foreign politics or upsetting the order of anything. However, when he comes into contact with Joanne, a powerful and rich Southern socialite, with ideas of stopping the Russians from entering Afghanistan he gets embroiled in a race to raise arms for the Afghans. But will his political position and good name stay intact when all is said and done?
Charlie Wilson's War is a witty and sophisticated drama about war-fare and politics in the time of the Cold War. Filled with sass and smarts it successfully makes the political drama entertaining and informative with three great lead performances, a solid script and stylish direction keeping things fresh and interesting. It shows a lightness of touch which is uncommon in the genre (see: Lions for Lambs) and follows a fascinating story with believability and a certain amount of dog-eared intellectual charm. The characters involved are all well developed and the film builds to a satisfying (if a little maddening) finale which leaves the audience with a lot to think about and bookends the film elegantly. There are brilliant pieces of real life footage spliced into the glitzy drama which feel raw and compelling and the more comedic elements of the screenplay are dealt with evenly and brilliantly. However, despite the films many triumphs, there are a few bumps along the way due to a bizarre amount of flash forwards which keep you very much at arms lengths and a stroke of one dimensionality which gives the whole thing a bitter after-taste.
Charlie Wilson's War is served best when it is concentrating on the interplay between the lead characters - here the dialogue is sparkling and witty with an old Hollywood appeal that keeps things ticking along nicely. The script is at its very best when building the relationships within the film, instilling a palpable sexual/romantic tension between Joanne and Charlie and crafting a trickling chemistry which is highly watchable. The film also makes the transition from comedy to drama extremely successfully; changing tone and pace with enough grace to make the film feel seamless and even handed. It's also very entertaining with alot of substance that makes for an intelligent treat; it doesn't take itself too seriously so things are still fresh and light but also poses challenging questions and adds weight to the scripts more serious and upsetting themes. The story is pleasingly complex without being confusing and has a refreshingly brisk pace that ensures that it doesn't outstay its welcome. It manages to capitalise of its rather grand premise straight away and it is fairly engaging throughout with a lot of interesting stylistic flourishes and some wonderful pieces of drama and comedy.
However, the proceedings feel very one sided - we are not encouraged to see the Russian characters as humans or care about some of their plight which makes the thing feel a bit bitter and unrounded. The film also leaves off at a really interesting moment (where the characters are experiencing some major shifts in morals and situations) which feels a little gimmicky and rushed after a very successful final sequence. The film also insists on jumping forward without any warning making it hard to understand what is happening and why (these parts are also fairly badly edited, which doesn't help). And those expecting a serious political drama will be disappointed; it doesn't throw up political quandaries as often as it does moral and it follows the lines of a farce more closely than true drama. The screenplay very occasionally dips into the silly, damaging the overall effect of the movie and pulling the tone out-of-whack. And that poses another, albeit small, problem - Charlie Wilson's War never feels completely sure of itself; whether in tone, content or style, it's not consistent, which can make the film feel jerky and uneven, taking some of the poignancy and power out of the more moving moments.
Tom Hanks is charismatic, engaging and powerful as the title character; he is convincing as a hard drinking Texan but also elegantly puts across Wilson's very personal journey - making for a funny, involving and moving performance that holds the film together nicely. He shows a real likeability in the role, displaying a boyish streak which works well when contrasted with the sometimes coarse personality of Charlie and his very authoritative demeanour makes his power over the government feel authentic and realistic. He also has a sparky sexual chemistry with Julia Roberts which is truly entertaining and funny. Roberts fares equally well as Joanne, the powerful socialite who starts Wilson's plan to save Afghanistan, bringing wit, intelligence and elegance to a rather hard role to play. She is sexy and sassy and more than capable of holding her own against the other cast members; bringing alot of humour to the film whilst mining the more emotional sequences to good effect.
However, this is Philip Seymour Hoffman's show; he is manic and understated, hilarious and sad, enigmatic and in-your-face and a really fresh presence within the film, stealing nearly all of the scenes with his energy and talent. He manages to turn a potentially one dimensional character into something real and interesting with a lot of fun flourishes.
Charlie Wilson's War mixes a bunch of different genres and styles into the pot which keeps the audience on their toes and keeps things moving at a pleasingly fast pace, with exciting and interesting plot twists. It feels very fresh as it constantly contrasts the serious nature of the material with the more comedic and light-hearted elements. The screenplay crafts a lot of really good character development which makes the whole thing much more interesting and satisfying and the direction from Mike Nichols is fluid, stylish, clever and quick. He instils fun into the proceedings but makes the final message poignant and he delivers political and moral ideas without feeling heavy-handed or preachy.
Overall, Charlie Wilson's War is a brilliant piece of drama based on a genuinely interesting story, with great performances, a substantial screenplay, some interesting plot twists and excellent direction. Despite the fact that it plays like a straight-up farce it has some genuinely emotion moments and a lot of style. Definitely one of the best political dramas of late.
I really enjoyed this. Tom Hanks plays a hard drinking, womanising polititian who gets embroiled in arming Afghan freedom fighters in their war against the Russians in the mid-1980's. Hansk was especially good as the congressman with many character flaws who manages to get more moeny from the American senate to arm the Afghans.
The always watchable Phillip Seymour Hoffman was also very good as the undercover spy who helps Hanks along the way. Hoffman was really funny in this - wearing large 80's glasses and a huge moustache.
Julia Roberts was however a bit irritating. She had an extremely annoying hairstyle throughout and spouted out the script like she knew what she was talking about, but didn't.
Charlie Wilson's War is a great political film and does well to re-create the 80's cold war tensions and period. If you like the films of George Clooney and Steven Soderbergh ( Traffic, Syrianna etc) then you'll love it.
(film only review)
"Charles Nesbitt "Charlie" Wilson (born June 1, 1933) is a former United States naval officer and former Democratic United States Representative from the 2nd congressional district in Texas. He is best known for leading Congress into supporting the largest ever CIA covert operation, which supplied the Afghan Mujahideen during the Soviet war in Afghanistan." This entry from Wikipedia is also the plot of the film Charlie Wilson's War. If you follow world politics, I can't spoil it for you by giving away the ending, you'll know that the Mujahideen succeeded in driving the Soviet invaders away.
In 2003 the author George Crile published the book The Extraordinary Story of the Largest Covert Operation in History, a tome of 560 pages, Aaron Sorkin turned it into a screenplay and Mike Nichols directed the film which was released in December, 2007.
Tom Hanks is convincing in the role of the laid-back, fun-loving Congressman, a liberal as well as a libertine, a womaniser, alcoholic and occasional drug user that the real man obviously is, his features are a bit bloated which is understandable considering the amount of whisky he guzzles at every opportunity. (I don't know if Hanks looks like this now or if the make-up artist has put some extra flabby flesh on his cheeks). He doesn't come over as intellectual but as intelligent, clever and sharp-witted.
The beginning of the film, before Wilson becomes committed to the cause of the Afghans, has its light moments which contrast to what we're seeing later when he visits a refugee camp in Pakistan, for example.
Wilson is supported morally and financially by Joanne Herring, one of his on-and-off bedfellows, a Houston socialite, fervent Christian and Communist Hater, incarnated by Julia Roberts. She's perfect, of course, she's a pro and can play anything but I don't like her in this film, she seems too experienced to me, her heart doesn't seem to be in the role. Again some funny moments here when she and Wilson meet at a fund-raising party.
Wilson's only colleague who joins him in the fight to get weapons to the Afghans is Gust Avrakotos, a former CIA man, a vulgar and cynical bully, wonderfully played by Philip Seymour Hoffman. When this character gets a fit of rage, I have reason again to bemoan the fact that all foreign films are dubbed in Germany, I'm sure I could enlarge my vocabulary if I could hear him swear in English. Some more funny moments here.
Yet, how the film can be called a comedy is beyond me, I can't see it as a satire, either, another label it has been given. My overall impression is that the film is neither fish nor fowl, it's a biographical report about an extraordinary man doing something extraordinary in a difficult political situation thus changing the course of history. This could be enough, but for reasons unknown funny elements have been added in the wrong assumption that they'd turn the film into a comedy. (No idea, why it should be a comedy at all.)
But this indecision as to which genre the film belongs is not what really bothers me, this is something else. It's out of the question that the Soviet Army committed outrageous crimes in Afghanistan, toys and sweets were dropped which when picked up by children exploded mutilating them in the most horrible way - to name but one, but I object strongly to being manipulated by the director into feeling overjoyed when at last, thanks to their American friends, the Afghans succeed in shooting down Soviet helicopters and planes - not with the war in Iraq still going on.
Why has the film been made just now I wonder? Agreed, it ends with the insight that the American government was never interested in the Afghans as human beings, that they only saw a chance to defeat the Soviet Union, yet, further insights into what followed afterwards, i.e., the rise of the Taliban, are not included.
I'm not interested in film music, normally I go home after watching a film and don't even remember if there was any, but in the case of Charlie Wilson's War I noticed it only too well. Helicopters flying over Afghan settlements dropping bombs and then being shot down accompanied by a symphonic orchestra at full blast made me want to puke. According to IMDb James Newton Howard is responsible for this tastelessness.
Who should see this film? Only ardent fans of the stars and aficionados of war scenes, if you're neither, save the money for the ticket and donate it to charity.
Two stars for the film, one extra star for Tom Hanks' performance.
Runtime: 97 min.
Rated R for strong language, nudity/sexual content and some drug use