Thursday, June 30, 2011

Review: Tom and Julia Candy-Coat "Charlie Wilson's War"

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 23 (of 2008) by Leroy Douresseaux

Charlie Wilson’s War (2007)
Running time: 102 minutes (1 hour, 42 minutes)
MPAA – R for strong language, nudity/sexual content, and some drug use
DIRECTOR: Mike Nichols
WRITER: Aaron Sorkin (based upon a book, Charlie Wilson’s War: The Extraordinary Story of the Largest Covert Operation in History, by George Crile)
PRODUCERS: Gary Goetzman and Tom Hanks
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Stephen Goldblatt (D.o.P.)
EDITORS: John Bloom and Antonia Van Drimmelen
Academy Award nominee


Starring: Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, Brian Markinson, Emily Blunt, Jud Taylor, Hilary Angelo, Cyia Batten, and Ned Beatty

Director Mike Nichols’ historical drama and political comedy, Charlie Wilson’s War is based on a true story. In real life, Charles “Charlie” Wilson was a 12-term Democratic United States Representative from the 2nd congressional district in Texas. Wilson is best known for convincing the U.S. Congress to support a CIA covert operation in Afghanistan. This largest ever CIA covert operation supplied the Afghan mujahideen in their fight against the Soviet Union which began occupying the country when Soviet forces entered the Asian nation in 1978. Charlie Wilson’s War is a biographical film based upon George Crile’s book about Wilson and his activities entitled, Charlie Wilson’s War: The Extraordinary Story of the Largest Covert Operation in History.

Charlie Wilson (Tom Hanks), an alcoholic womanizer and Texas congressman, conspires with a rogue CIA operative, Gust Avrakotos (Philip Seymour Hoffman, in an Oscar-nominated role), to aid Afghan mujahideen rebels in their fight against the Soviet Red Army. With the help of Joanne Herring (Julia Roberts), a conservative political activist and Houston socialite, Wilson persuades Congressional defense committees to fund the training and arming of resistance fighters in Afghanistan to fend off the Soviet Union. The money, training and a team of military experts may help turn the tide for the ill-equipped Afghan freedom-fighters, but Wilson finds himself in a fight to keep his loosely connected allies in line.

Charlie Wilson’s War is certainly a sly and sophisticated movie, but it is ultimately shallow. Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin weaves a steady stream of clever and witty dialogue, and his ability to make wonkish political and military jargon light and airy enough to fit in with this film’s humorous tone is impressive.

Mike Nichols builds his sharp-edged political comedy around actors who give… well, sharp performances. Tom Hanks plays Charlie Wilson as a down-home smart aleck who can be a regular guy, a savvy politician, or blindingly smart strategist when the occasion calls for it. Philip Seymour Hoffman delivers Gust Avrakotos as a bludgeon and scalpel, but the treat here are the women. Julia Roberts is so fine as the charming, imperial Joanne Herring – a super woman who can match any man. Amy Adams as Wilson’s ever-ready, girl Friday continues to spread her enchantment on movie audiences, while the other actresses who play Wilson’s staff of super honeys also deliver really good performances.

So, Charlie Wilson's War is entertaining, with its good performances and deft comedic handling of real American history, but its entertainment value is about the extent of it. Charlie Wilson’s War is just a candy-coated topping covering up the ugly side of American intervention in international affairs. Nichols, his creative staff, and his cast certainly give us enough sweet sassiness to enjoy, but sooner or later we have to get down to the bad taste of the truth that lies at the heart of this story. In the real world, covert operations are much messier than this clean, slick political film is.

7 of 10

2008 Academy Awards: 1 nomination for “Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role” (Philip Seymour Hoffman)

2008 BAFTA Awards: 1 nomination for “Best Supporting Actor” (Philip Seymour Hoffman)

2008 Golden Globes: 5 nominations: “Best Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical,” “Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical” (Tom Hanks), “Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture” (Philip Seymour Hoffman), “Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture” (Julia Roberts), and “Best Screenplay - Motion Picture” (Aaron Sorkin)

Tuesday, May 06, 2008


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