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Sunday, December 23, 2007

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Posted By on Sun, Dec 23, 2007 at 1:21 PM

MOVIEGOER REVIEW:  CHARLIE WILSON'S WAR

"Charlie Wilson's War" is a film starring Tom Hanks in another immensely likeable and funny role, roles he abandonded more than a decade ago when he started winning Oscars.  Set in the 1980's, Hanks plays Charlie Wilson, an unknown Texas Congressman who wheels, deals, drinks and seduces women in Washington, D.C.  He is, as he remarks, "the only member of Congress whose constituents want absolutely nothing."  And he would have likely kept on going about his ways had the cause of the Afghan people, in the wake of an invasion by the Russians, not caught the attention of one of the wealthiest women in Texas (played by Julia Roberts with an annoying accent).  Mr. Wilson, a lucky member of a House defense appropriations subcommittee, has the luxury of sending millions of dollars from the U.S. Treasury to aid the Afghans without anyone, including the American people, knowing anything about it. 

The film, directed by Mike Nichols from a script by Aaron Sorkin is, in a way, a "Dummies Guide to American intervention in the Russian - Afghan War."  At 97 minutes, there's not much room to squeeze in many details.  There was a war and Charlie Wilson, along with his CIA sidekick Gust Avrakotos (Philip Seymour Hoffman), were directing it.  It's an admirable story, and one that but for Mr. Nichols film (my apologies to George Crile who wrote the book on which the film is based) few would probably know.

Obviously, there's a lot more to it than what Mr. Sorkin, famous for the television series "The West Wing" was able to capture in his script.  But that's okay, because most people who see it won't want to experience much more.  Why?  Because it's not good.  It's not funny.  It's not happy.  It's not, in a few words, American movies at Christmas time.

Yet, for all the film's flaws, Mr. Hoffman's performance, as it seems to be with every film he makes, is incredible.  His pitch, tone and delivery is perfect.  He is, as I remarked half-jokingly to my moviegoing friend, my (film) hero.

So, I recommend that you see "Charlie Wilson's War," and be prepared for a superficial snapshot of history.  And when it's over, go catch a showing of "The Kite Runner," and see what happens next.

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