I hate to say it but Charlie Wilson’s War did not do much for me.
I hate to say that because this 2007 film is fairly well-acted, well-directed, and well-written (by Aaron Sorkin, whose scripts usually get on my last nerve). And it deals with an important subject. Taking place in the 80s, the film details how a Texas congressman (Tom Hanks), working with a profane CIA agent (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and an eccentric socialite (Julia Roberts), managed to create popular and political support for giving weapons to the Afghan rebels who were fighting the Soviet invasion of their country. By doing so, Wilson helps to weaken the Soviet Union but, when his efforts to provide humanitarian aide to Afghanistan are less successful, he also contributes to the subsequent rise of the Taliban.
It should have been a film that I would normally rave about but … I don’t know.
I watched Charlie Wilson’s War. I laughed at some of Tom Hanks’s facial reactions. (Hanks is playing a womanizer here who may, or may not, have been high on cocaine when he first learned about the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and it’s obvious that Hanks really enjoyed getting to play someone who wasn’t a traditionally upright hero.) As I watched, I again considered what a loss we suffered when the brilliant Philip Seymour Hoffman died. And, as I watched Julia Roberts, I again wonder why, despite the fact that she’s from Georgia, it is apparently impossible for Julia to sound authentically Southern.
(Of course, I’m sure some would argue that Julia wasn’t playing Southern here. She was playing a Texan. Well, I’m a Texan and I’ve never heard anyone down here sound like that. Tom Hanks, meanwhile, actually managed to come up with a decent accent. Wisely, he underplayed the accent, whereas I don’t think that Julia has ever underplayed anything in her life.)
And, at the end of Charlie Wilson’s War, I knew I had watched a good film but it was also a film that left me feeling curious detached. To be honest, I almost think the film would have been better if Hoffman’s CIA agent had been the main character, as opposed to Hanks’s congressman. Hoffman’s character, after all, is the one who nearly lost his job over his belief that the Afghan rebels should be armed. All Hanks really has to worry about is whether or not he’s going to be indicted for using cocaine in Vegas.
However, I do think that Charlie Wilson’s War does deserve praise for one very specific reason. Excluding the films made by native filmmakers like Richard Linklater and Wes Anderson, Charlie Wilson’s War is one of the few films that I’ve ever seen that actually portrays anyone from Texas in a positive light. Even more shockingly, it’s a positive portrayal of a Texas politician!
(I know it must have been tempting to change history and pretend that Charlie Wilson was originally elected from somewhere up north…)
But, overall, Charlie Wilson’s War didn’t do much for me. But, if you’re into military history and all that, you might enjoy the film more than I did.
(Plus, all you boys will probably enjoy Emily Blunt’s scenes….)
At the very least, you can watch it for Philip Seymour Hoffman.