What happens when you take Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Aaron Sorkin, the creator of "The West Wing", and put them altogether? You get Charlie Wilson's War, an incredibly funny and entertaining drama-comedy about the U.S.'s secret involvement in the Russia-Afghanistan War.
Yes, the Russian invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980's is not your typical topic for a comedy, but when you have the backing of Sorkin's political writing skills, anything is possible. Charlie Wilson's War is somehow funny and serious simultaneously from nearly start to finish; there's rarely a scene where something "real" or meaningful isn't happening and you aren't cracking up at the same time. The witty dialogue and complex portrayal of Representative Wilson's covert funding during the '80's makes Charlie Wilson's War an easy candidate for Best Adapted Screenplay.
To enjoy the movie, you of course have to have a slight political interest, though Charlie Wilson's War works as both a political machine and simply as a drama-comedy. It's hard to compare it to anything else, because I really can't think of anything quite like it. It's funny, deep and smart, a rare feat these days. Furthermore, whether you're a Republican or Democrat, warmonger or peace activist, you'll find something to like here; surprisingly, the movie doesn't really take sides; while the ending hints at its intentions, you can make of it what you will.
The acting is also quite good. While no one is going to win awards here, Hanks turns in his best performance since 2002's Road to Perdition. The character of Charlie Wilson is completely different than anything he has played before, which is a double-edged sword. Some box office analysts have partially blamed the failure of Charlie Wilson's War on Hanks' casting as the womanizing, cocaine-snorting bachelor politician, and, admittedly, it is out of character for a man we've come to expect to deliver relatively wholesome personas. Nevertheless, Hanks does a great job here; there are few other actors who could have made this character as likable.
The show stealer, however, is Hoffman. Hoffman, who plays CIA agent Gust Avrakotos, is absolutely incredible, and one of my picks for Best Supporting Actor. Hoffman is crude, grubby and yet super intelligent, and his delivery is one of the funniest things I've seen in recent memory.
Roberts is pretty much wasted in a relatively small role. At least it's nice to see her sticking to the background when the story demands it.
I really wasn't expecting much from Charlie Wilson's War; the previews weren't very powerful or funny, and it looked like just another film. But the movie is terrific, funny and meaningful, and one of the year's best. The best? No, not even close. But still, Charlie Wilson's War comes highly recommended.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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