Charlie Wilson’s War (2007) ***1/2
Directed by Mike Nichols
I didn’t see Charlie Wilson’s War in the movies. I think that ten years from now, I may look at that fact and be baffled. I am quite possibly among the top 50 biggest West Wing fans on the planet. Not a single day goes by where I don’t watch an episode. It’s gotten to the point where I can’t fall asleep unless I hear the familiar voices of the actors lulling me off to dreamland. What does the West Wing have to do with Charlie Wilson’s War? Why, Aaron Sorkin of course whose screenplay we see in the movie. Sorkin was responsible for creating the West Wing and writing most of the episodes during its first four seasons. Sorkin is also responsible for one of my favorite movies of all time—A Few Good Men. I’ve loved his other series—Sports Night and Studio 60 on Sunset Strip even though they were not successful. The American President was a delightful Sorkin-penned movie. So, I was overflowing with excitement as I began to watch Charlie Wilson’s War. Oh yeah, it contains two of my very favorite actors—Julia Roberts and Tom Hanks.
So what did I think? Well, I was entertained and I enjoyed the movie. It was well made and Philip Seymour Hoffman absolutely deserved his Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination. What did I love about the film? Yep, you guessed it—Sorkin’s dialogue. No one is able to write such smart and romanticized conversation. One moment can be extremely funny but the next can catch the viewer off guard with powerful, emotional intensity. No one has more fun with their screenplays and on the same note, no one can write a transition into heavy drama better.
What didn’t I love? Well, I didn’t love either Tom Hanks’ or Julia Roberts’ performances. It takes a certain ability to do justice to Sorkin’s dialogue and unfortunately, Hanks and Roberts don’t allow it to reach its potential in the same way that Hoffman was able to. Interestingly, the one movie actor that I think did the very best job with Sorkin’s dialogue was Tom Cruise in A Few Good Men. Sorkin requires his characters to be outwardly confident but inwardly unsure and in pain. Cruise can be cocky with the best of them. Hanks and Roberts didn’t go far enough, especially Hanks who almost loses himself in the character. Neither gave “bad” performances. They were just disappointingly average.
The film centers around Texas Congressman Charlie Wilson in the 1980s. Hanks plays Wilson who is a drunk and a womanizer. He’s got some serious character flaws, which is pointed out to him by none other than the President of Pakistan. He makes it his personal mission to get the
Anyway, that’s pretty much the whole film. It varies locations between
Yes, Sorkin’s dialogue does push an agenda. On DVD commentaries, he often says that he’s not really presenting an overly slanted political viewpoint, but come on. We know he is and it’s obvious in this film. The most haunting part of the film lies at the very end.
Nichols, Roberts and Hanks did adequate jobs in Charlie Wilson’s War. This isn’t Sorkin’s best work, but it’s definitely high quality stuff. Hoffman does it justice. When I watch a film by Hitchcock or Bergman, I am sad that they will not be making any more films than what already exists. Sorkin, whom I love just as much, is still alive and working hard. Woo hoo!