Review of Charlie Wilson’s War directed by Mike Nichols
Rating *** 1/2
Why would Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, and Phillip Seymour Hoffman. appear in a film that few people have seen? Probably because they have reached a point in their careers where they can pick and choose their projects and don’t have to make films that don’t interest them. This is not your typical Hollywood film. You actually have to pay attention. There are no special effects (unless you count the scantily clad extras that populate the story).
This film tells the story of Charlie Wilson, a Texas Congressman played by Tom Hanks, who, along with a socialite and CIA agent, supply arms to Afghan rebels in order to force the Russians to abandon Afghanistan. Not exactly source material for a comedy, but that’s the tone the film takes with the subject.
The motivation for this clandestine effort is to ease the suffering of the Afghan people, especially the children. They also hope to have the Afghan rebels fight the Russians for us and prevent them from gaining a foothold in the region. The problem is that while they accomplished their goals, they created an even larger problem that we continue to deal with today. This is covered briefly in the closing minutes of the film.
The story takes a while to get going. This is due, in part, to the dialog by writer Aaron Sorkin. The dialog in the opening scenes is fast and furious with only small sections that seem pertinent to the story. It may come across as witty but it doesn’t do much to move the story forward. I also wasn’t crazy about the framing scenes that start and finish the film. They were boring and it could have been done differently.
Afghan has been the subject of a number of films and books that I have come across recently. It is a bleak country that seems stuck in the fifteenth century. This film didn’t do anything to dispel that image. It is interesting to note the efforts the U.S. went to to disguise who was behind the arms while they are busy blaming the Iranians for doing the very same thing in Iraq.
The DVD has an interesting behind the scenes documentary where you do get to hear from the real people.