Should we blame the tax-payers for the war in Afghanistan? Wait a minute, that’s us!
Texas congressman Charlie Wilson (Tom Hanks) is one hell of a wild guy. He loves his ladies, he loves his booze, he loves his blow, but most of all, he loves the one main thing that’s nearest and dearest to his heart: His money. Eventually though, all of those fun times and partying, soon catch-up with him when a scandal between him and two strippers gets leaked to the public-media. Miraculously somehow, he beat the rap. How? Well, let’s just say he got two very smart and powerful friends of his, Joanne Herring and Gust Avrakotos (Julia Roberts and Philip Seymour Hoffman), to help him fund resistance fighters in Afghanistan as they fought with the Soviets. Seemed like a pretty good idea to Charlie at the time, but little did he know of the consequences.
Pretty sure most of you know exactly where this story goes and is most likely going to end-up, considering after about two decades of Charlie Wilson’s high-minded ideas, we are still feeling the effects. That’s obvious to us all now, but back then, not many people knew of what would happen down the road and thought that everything that this man Charlie was doing, was the act of a Saint-like creature. Maybe so at the same time, but look where we are now.
But I digress. Being that this a movie all about politics and most of it takes place in the rooms where most of our politicians duke-it-out in a “Whose Ego is Bigger” competition, it would only seem right that Aaron Sorkin be given the reigns to write this movie and given a chance to do everything that he does best: Write snippy, snappy screenplays. And that’s all pretty on-display here, but with a slight twist this time around. Being that is the true story of Charlie Wilson and how he single-handedly manipulated his way into a war, was way beyond me and something I just could not believe. However, I did some research, and surprise, surprise! Most of it as all true and it’s only Sorkin’s job to not only show us that, but to also keep us entertained as well.
The script never loses steam, as you can just tell that Sorkin is firing on this story from all cylinders. Yeah, there were certain moments where this flick got a tad too serious and had to show us the true problems with Charlie and all of the people around him, but not too much of it is placed on them and instead, what we get to see a lot of is Charlie being a slick, charming and sometimes, conniving politician. It’s all fun to watch and if anything, is actually a bit insightful since we get to see him slime his way around the office, without ever really saying what it is that he’s all about, or what it is that he truly feels. We don’t even really know if he’s a good guy or not, but what we do know is that he’s a smart guy that is in the position that he’s in for a reason. Got to give major kudos to Sorkin for making another political story that’s apparently based on “fact”, and making me feel like I was right there from beginning to end to see it all go down.
The other-half of the kudos has to go to the cast, whom are all great, do what they do best and make this script seem legit, as if they could have really been speaking this lingo themselves. Tom Hanks in the role of Charlie Wilson may seem like a bit of a miscast, considering the guy we all know and love as our everyday type of dude that just so happens to be a movie star, is in his first scene drinking, doing blow and hanging out with strippers. It’s a bit of a surprise to see Hanks play this cad-like dude, but Hanks’ charm always shines through and makes Charlie Wilson a great person to watch. You can’t really assure yourself that you’re going to like him at all by the end of the movie, but to watch Hanks use that inexplicable likability to his advantage and make everybody else around him, fall in love with him as quick as we all do, is a true testament to the actor’s skills. We all know by now that Hanks is a great actor, but even for someone like him, it’s great to see him stretch his wings a bit.
Julia Roberts plays his “gal-pal” of sorts, Joanne Herring, and doesn’t stretch herself nearly as much as Hanks, but is still entertaining to watch. Roberts just feels like she’s one of these bad, naughty girls that knows what it is she wants, knows what she likes and knows how to get it, so what does she do? She does whatever is possible to acquire her needs and not only does it work because she is still smokin’, but because the girl has a look and feel to her that is so damn spicy. Sorry if this sounds like all I am doing is complimenting Julia Roberts on how mighty fine of a dime she is, but she did a nice job here and I’m just giving her credit where it’s definitely due.
The one out of this cast that really stood-out is Philip Seymour Hoffman as the CIA agent, Gust Avrakotos. Hoffman’s first scene where we see him yelling and arguing with his boss, is exactly what we expect from this guy and the meshing of his skills as an actor, with Sorkin’s skills as a writer, is like a match-made-in-heaven. Hoffman is so slimy and sneaky, that you never quite know what the hell this guy is up to, whether or not it’s the right thing to do, or what he has up his sleeve next. However, at the end of the story, he ends up being the guy with the best conscience of all of these people, and will definitely surprise you. He cares about humanity and he sure as hell cares for his country, but he also cares about getting the job done and doing everything right. Hoffman is a perfection in this role and I don’t really see how they could have casted anybody different for a person like this. Whether or not the real Gust Avrakotos was actually like this, is beyond me, but Hoffman makes this guy the one you can’t wait to see show up, speak, make fun of somebody, and just be a dick, like we all know and love him as being.
Despite all of the great, wonderful and beautiful things I may be saying about this movie, there’s still something in the pit of my stomach that’s holding me back from liking it just a bit more. See, with this lightning-quick pace we get from both Sorkin and director Mike Nichols, there’s never a moment where we actually get some time to sit-down, relax and let it all sink in. We understand the how and the why what we are seeing is relevant, but it never fully hits us like it should, mostly due to the fact that Nichols’ direction definitely seems to be hiding behind the fact that his material may not be all that weighty to begin with, or just a bit messy.
And don’t get me wrong, I think I’ve already made it clear-enough that I absolutely adored Sorkin’s script, it’s just clear that there could have been a lot more development with this material and the political-point it was trying to make. I wasn’t asking for anything along the lines of a Michael Moore documentary, but a bit more of a high-light on what was coming down the bend would have gone a long way. That, and the movie’s overall balance of comedy and drama. However, when you have an Aaron Sorkin-scripted piece of material, you have to be happy and just embrace for what it is. I guess.
Consensus: Sorkin’s witty and snappy script, the ensemble cast and ideas made about current-day politics are all terrific and all, but that’s all Charlie Wilson’s War is content with being: An enjoyable time, with not much else added to the proceedings. Just a whole bunch of pretty, shiny and entertaining stuff to show us.
8 / 10 = Matinee!!