Charlie Wilson is a Texan through and through. He talks big, is an imposing presence, and he lives life to its absolute fullest. Nothing’s off-limits for the Congressman. Hot tubs, strippers, nose candy, hard partying… The list goes on and on. But there’s also a serious side to the man who enjoys his booze and his broads. A news story about Afghan rebels catches his eye and that, rather than the naked women immersed in hot water alongside him, is all he can focus on.
I’d pay to see Tom Hanks and Philip Seymour Hoffman pair up in another movie. Hanks and Hoffman make for a great onscreen team, with their scenes together the high points of Charlie Wilson’s War. Hanks’ slick, charming take on Wilson is the perfect counter to Hoffman’s sharp-tongued Avrakotos.
On the other hand, I never bought Roberts as the Texas socialite who gets whatever she wants. Roberts never dissolved into the character. And, disappointingly, the chemistry’s just not there between Roberts and Hanks, although the idea of two of the most popular actors in America uniting is a real no-brainer. Maybe with a different story these two A-listers might ignite a few sparks onscreen. Unfortunately, Charlie Wilson’s War wasn’t the project to fan any potential flames.
Aaron Sorkin’s script condenses the real Charlie Wilson’s exploits into a fast-paced 97 minute film. Sorkin knows how to write in the political genre (he wrote and executive produced The West Wing) and doesn’t linger too long over any one element in this complicated tale.
The real Charlie Wilson is impressed by the way Hollywood told his story. In our interview at the film’s premiere in Hollywood, Wilson told me he pushed for the film to “portray the true heroism of the Afghans and sort of our debt to these guys who took on the Russian army and defeated them when nobody in the world thought they could, except me.” If Charlie Wilson’s War accomplishes nothing else, it does at least get those key points across.
You definitely can’t accuse Charlie Wilson’s War of spouting the same old tired story. It’s an interesting CliffsNotes version of a part of American history that not everyone knows about and is fascinating to discover.
Charlie Wilson's War was directed by Mike Nichols and is rated R for strong language, nudity/sexual content and some drug use.