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Tom Hanks ………. Charlie Wilson
Philip Seymour Hoffman ………. Gust Avrakotos
Julia Roberts ………. Joanne Herring
Amy Adams ………. Bonnie
When it comes to a sheer amount of fortitude, Charlie Wilson’s aiding of the Muhjadeen in their war against the Soviet Union ranks amongst the most brazen maneuvers a politician could ever pull off. Unknown for many years, but speculated upon for just as many, the ability of a relatively unknown Congressman from Texas to pull off one of the largest insurgent aid operations in the history of the world is a markedly fascinating story to read in “Charlie Wilson’s War.” Now the book has been adapted into a film of the same name, just in time to be relevant in today’s world and to go for an Oscar nomination for Mike Nichols.
Charlie Wilson (Tom Hanks) is a Congressman of no significance in 1980, known for his alcohol indulgence and hard partying ways when he sees a 60 Minutes piece about the brutal occupation of Afghanistan by the Soviets. After visiting, and a helpful endorsement of the cause by Houston socialite Joanne Herring (Julia Roberts), Wilson joins forces with an unorthodox CIA Agent (Philip Seymour Hoffman) to supply an unseemly amount of money and armaments to the Afghani Muslims. The film documents the various means by which the two, in collusion with several arms dealers and other diplomats, supplied the Muhjadeen with the gear that allowed them to defeat the Soviet Army and begin the process of the collapse of the “Evil Empire.”
The film’s strength is in its comedy, surprisingly, as the Aaron Sorkin penned script infuses a large amount of comedy to the proceedings. The film has some of the year’s best comedic moments, as Hoffman and Hanks trade one-liners on a fairly regular basis to a highly entertaining degree. It’s the film’s chief strength, as Hanks and Hoffman are skilled enough to keep the film’s dramatic pulse going while trading some terrific barbs with one another. They have instant chemistry with one another beyond merely being two Oscar winners on the same screen. These are two actors who work together well and it shows instantly.
It’s Hoffman who turns in the scene-stealing performance of the film, upstaging Hanks unintentionally throughout the film. Given most of the best one liners, Hoffman turns in yet another strong performance in 2007 that’s easily his best work of the year as well (the others being in The Savages and Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead). Gust is a CIA agent who knows that this is his last, best shot at running the sort of covert operation he’s been preparing for his whole career. Hanks is his usual solid self, even with the Southern twang taking down his performance a notch, but it’s Hoffman who turns in the best performance of the film and easily one of the best of the year.
And while Hoffman is magnificent, the film suffers from the fact that at times it uses too much comedy that it takes away from the inherent drama of the film. Sorkin’s script is top notch in building the story but there’s such a high volume comedy in it that the film’s drama tends to melt away at times. There’s too much of the film that feels like it’s setting up for a punch line or a gag and not enough setting up a good plot point.
Charlie Wilson’s War is the best of the political films of 2007, if only by default. While it’s an excellent character study filled with some good comedic one liners, it too often strays towards the comedy and not enough towards the drama inherent in the material.
FINAL RATING (ON A SCALE OF 1-5 BUCKETS):