Sunday, December 23, 2007

Charlie Wilson's War

Charlie Wilson's War combines a number of great talents into a winning piece of cinema. Mike Nichols' directing, Aaron Sorkin's writing, the talents of Tom Hanks, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Julia Roberts, and the true story this is based all contribute greatly to the success of this piece.

The story is about Charlie Wilson (Hanks), a senator from Texas who teams up with Gust Avrakatos (Hoffman) a CIA operative, and Joanne Herring (Roberts) a Texas socialite to wage an almost single handed war on the Soviet army invading Afghanistan. The three of them manage to shape policy, direct money, and somehow orchestrate cooperation among half a dozen Middle Eastern countries- all while keeping everything under the radar. It's a brilliant study on the workings of congress, and had it not been a true story, it would have bordered on farce worthy of Dr. Strangelove.

Tom Hanks is, of course, always amazing. That goes without saying. Julia Roberts plays pretty typical Julia Roberts, and I didn't find myself having much empathy with her character. Hoffman is fast proving himself to one of the great actors, and his cynical, yet zen-like role here is evidence of that. Finally, Amy Adams is cast as Wilson's assistant, Bonnie. This was a small role, but she functioned rather well as a foil to Wilson's outlandish behavior. It's his staff that keeps his political career alive.

I honestly can't believe Sorkin and Nichols hadn't worked together before. Nichols directed such political gems as Wag the Dog, and Catch-22. Sorkin is of course the mind behind the West Wing television series. They both brought to the table wonderful wit, while still commenting on a rather dark topic. It was very interesting seeing one representation of how Congress may have worked (and may still work). In the movie, it's all about favors, and Wilson was owed more favors than anyone. Votes are not determined necessarily by the issues themselves, but by whoever is willing to return a favor.

The movie had even more poignancy now than if it had been made several years ago, given the current hostilities towards America in the region. On top of the studies in character and Congress itself, Charlie Wilson's war is an interesting study in repercussions. What seems bad at first may turn out for the best, and what seems to be very good, may not be in the end. "We'll see."


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