Friday, December 21, 2007

Charlie Wilson's War

“You can teach them to type, but you can’t teach them to grow tits.”

Charlie Wilson (Tom Hanks), a junior Congressman from a small district in Texas, did the impossible. Not only did he spearhead the largest covert war in United States history, but he kept it a secret for years.

Wilson, a member of the Defense Appropriations subcommittee and the only Congressman from a district “who doesn’t want anything,” was in an unique position to change the world while nobody was looking.

After learning about the Afghan resistance against the Soviets, and being cajoled into providing more assistance by a powerful political contributor (Julia Roberts), Wilson with the help of his friends and CIA operative Gust Avrakotots (Philip Seymour Hoffman), over the course of the decade began increasing the money, weapons, and training being put into Afghanistan and began fighting a covert war which only a scant few even knew was taking place. And we aren’t talking a small increase here; we’re talking about hundreds of millions of dollars.

Where to begin? It’s nice to see Hanks in a slightly more tarnished role, though some of his fans may object to his womanizing and boozing “Good Time Charlie” it’s a nice harken back to characters he played earlier into his career. At this point in his career he also effortlessly infuses the character a weight and humanity allowing Charlie to carry the film with ease and allow us to dismiss, and even enjoy, his short-comings.

Also worth noting are Philip Seymour Hoffman, almost sure to pick up some awards gold for the controlled insanity of Gust, Julia Roberts in a nice supporting role, and the many women of Charlie Wilson who include Amy Adams, Hilary Angelo, Cyia Batten and Charlie’s support staff (which he refers to both as his Charlie’s Angels and Jail Bait throughout the film) Wynn Everett, Mary Bonner Baker, Shiri Appleby, and Rachel Nichols. They provide many of the film’s funniest moments including Hoffman’s first scene waiting outside Charlie’s office doing nothing but watching the women work.

The script, penned by Aaron Sorkin, balances the absurdity and reality of the situation in a way that’s mesmerizing. Although you can enjoy the film simply as one of the strangest untold stories in history, Sorkin also infuses an underlying message about these events, about the nature of government, and about US responsibility abroad; all of which have increased resonance given the US role in world affairs today.

Those expecting a warm and fuzzy Hanks’ flick like The Terminal, You’ve Got Mail and Sleepless in Seattle might be a little put off by the more adult subject matter, but I would heartily recommend the film to everyone. Great performances and one of the best scripts of the year make Charlie Wilson’s War a winner.

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