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Charlie Wilson's War (2007)
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
For strong language, nudity/sexual content and some drug use
Julia Roberts, Tom Hanks, Amy Adams, Jud Tylor, Nazanin Boniadi, Om Puri, Phillip Seymour Hoffman
Charlie Wilson's War (2007)
Based on George Crile's book about the CIA's largest and most successful covert CIA operation, the arming of the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan. The covert ops were engineered by Charlie Wilson (Hanks), a charismatic, wheeler-dealer, liberal Texas congressman who teamed with a rogue CIA operative (Hoffman).
Charlie Wilson's War (2007) | Review
Waging A Personal War
"I was bored." That statement matter-of-factly summed up one person's opinion of Charlie Wilson's War, which I must admit surprised me. I had to stop a moment to make sure we both watched the exact same movie. Yep, Charlie Wilson's War. That's what it says on the box, and I'm pretty sure that we both were in the same room and that we weren't using different DVD players. So, yes, we both watched the same movie, which again left me puzzled. While I certainly didn't think it was the greatest movie of all time, I didn't really think it was boring. As I pondered whether or not the film was boring, however, I eventually realized that, depending on a certain point of view, I could see how someone would feel that way. So there it is. Charlie Wilson's War will either interest you or bore you, and there seems to be no middle ground.
Interestingly enough, Tom Hanks admits that this material was difficult to adapt in the first place. Having read the book the movie is based on by George Crile, Hanks found the story itself quite fascinating. However, he admits in one of the DVD's (very few) extras that making it into a movie that people would be interested in was a difficult prospect. The history of the story is quite fascinating, focusing on one of the few turning points of world history. What would the world be like had Charlie Wilson not waged his war is a question that will never be answered; probably for the better. Because of Wilson's efforts, the mighty Red Army was defeated by Afghan rebels on mules, horseback, and the Afghanis' own two feet. How could such a thing have happened? Well, if you're really curious, watch the DVD. If it doesn't really matter to you, don't bother.
The short version: through the efforts of Charlie Wilson and a few co-horts, the U.S. was able to covertly lend the necessary aid to the Afghanis in order for them to fight and, yes, defeat the mighty Soviet miliatry machine. While that sounds pretty exciting, the truth is many of the details were actually very mundane.
The biggest success of this film isn't necessarily its ability to take a fascinating moment in history and turn it into an interesting movie, but rather the strength of the performances of its stars. Had not Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, and Philip Seymour Hoffman put in solid, entertaining performances, the entire movie would have fallen flat. This cast ably brings to life some unique and quirky people who banded together in order to pull off one of the largest covert operations in history. Tom Hanks is at his charming, witty best and his two co-stars also bring a wonderful life and energy to their roles. Of course it helps that the screenplay by Aaron Sorkin is tightly written with sharp diaglogue and some extremely witty, funny lines. It successfully balances both the quirkiness of the characters and the gravity of exactly what they were trying to do.
Still, there are some flaws here. At times it can be difficult to keep track of all the auxiliary characters that Wilson wheels and deals with in order to accomplish his goal (which certainly lends to the possibility that one would find this movie boring). Also, almost the entire film is people talking, which if one doesn't have a strong script (and I feel this film does), can make it difficult for a viewer to remain interested. One of the biggest problems was the opening scene. I understand that Charlie Wilson was no saint, but surely that could be established without the gratuitous naked-women-in-a-hot-tub-scene. Also, there's a lot of foul language in this film, and while playing Halo 3 has revealed to me that there are indeed people who talk that way, I still wonder if it was really as common as this film makes it seem.
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