Charlie Wilson’s War Review
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With all the war movies that have made their way into theaters lately, it’s no secret that I’ve gotten just a little bit sick of it all. It seems like you can’t even go to a kids’ movie these days without getting smacked over the head with the horrors of war. So when I saw that Tom Hanks was starring in a movie about covert operations in Afghanistan, I may have groaned. But when I noticed that Charlie Wilson’s War was nominated for a bunch of Golden Globes in the “Musical or Comedy” category, I figured that meant it would either be funny or it would involve Tom Hanks playing a singing congressman. Either way, it had to be entertaining.

As it turns out, there’s no singing in Charlie Wilson, but it’s definitely entertaining. Hanks plays Texas Congressman Charlie Wilson, a stereotypically hard-partying government official who flies under the radar to keep his job—and who loves his whiskey almost as much as he loves his women. One night, while partying in Vegas in the early ‘80s, Wilson notices a news feature about Afghanistan’s struggle against Soviet occupation. When he manages to double the budget for aid to Afghanistan—from $5 million to $10 million—he attracts the attention of Joanne Herring (Julia Roberts), a socialite and old friend from back home. Joanne’s been sponsoring fund-raisers for the cause, and she’s determined to get Charlie involved.

With a little bit of smooth-talking and a whole lot of called-in favors, Charlie and Joanne, along with rogue CIA Agent Gust Avrakotos (Philip Seymour Hoffman), rally sworn enemies—Pakistan, Israel, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia—to secretly help Afghanistan fight back.

The plot may sound pretty complex—and, in a way, it is. There’s a lot of stuff going on here—a lot of meetings and alliances and secrecy—and if you try to carefully follow every last detail, it’ll make your head spin. But Charlie Wilson’s War isn’t really about the picky details—and, unlike most war movies, it manages to keep things light. It’s just the story of a fun-loving congressman, a fund-raising socialite, and a temperamental CIA agent who decide to change the world. Sure, there’s plenty of politics involved—but there’s also a whole lot of whiskey, women, and wisecracks.

Charlie Wilson’s War actually manages to make covert war entertaining. The story is presented lightly, and the cast makes it fun. Though it’s been years since I’ve felt anything more than indifference toward Hanks, he redeems himself as Wilson. Hanks fits surprisingly well into the role of the hard-partying, womanizing politician, and he’ll often make you forget about the seriousness of the situation. Roberts is as even and elegant as ever as the socialite who changes the world while touching up her makeup. But Hoffman often steals the show in his crisp, no-nonsense performance as the hot-tempered yet shrewd agent.

Unfortunately, that light touch doesn’t last, and it gets a little preachy in the end. Perhaps the filmmakers were struck with some kind of sense of duty to point out that war isn’t all fun and games, but the last few minutes don’t fit with the overall tone of the story—and it ends the film on a low note. For the most part, though, Charlie Wilson’s War is an entertaining film—and a refreshing change of pace from the same old war movie.

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