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7/15/08

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(Seen on 5/20/08) I'm not a huge fan of political films, they're usually kind of dry or they get my ire up. I've tried to avoid most of the Iraq war films, since it's still an open wound, and according to the box office, it seems most Americans feel the same way. But a film with the pedigree of Charlie Wilson's War, there was no way I could pass it up. The film is directed by an old master, Mike Nicholos; stars two of the biggest movie stars around, Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts, and is written by Alan (The West Wing) Sorkin, and they prove that they know how to put on a hell of a show. The film is funny, entertaining, quick moving and enlightening.

Based on a true story, although it's always tough to tell how much is based in reality and how much is for our entertainment,the film is about Charlie Wilson, a Texas congressman. Charlie spent most of his time in office abusing his power, partying with high rollers and such, which isn't too hard to believe. But when he sees Dan Rather reporting from Afghanistan, where they're warring with the Soviets, his motivation to help suddenly kicks in. Through a lot of political finagling, the help of a rich philanthropist and a CIA outsider, he manages to strike the first blow in the down fall of the Soviet Union. He does so by covertly supplying the Afghani's with advanced weapons and the training needed to operate them, so the battlefield is evened out.

The film has a lot of great Washington insider scenes, and you get a good feeling for how things really work. Hanks as "Good Time Charlie" Wilson, is impetuously likable, constantly surrounding himself with beautiful women, and when he takes to something he cares about, he goes at it full force. Julia Roberts has her best role in years as Joanne Herring, the Houston socialite, who uses her charm and vast amount of powerful contacts to help garner support for Wilson's cause. Philip Seymour Hoffman steals every scene he's in as the boozy, CIA operative Gust Avrakotos, his history of underground dealings help pave the way for all the deals that Wilson has to make along the way.

With a top-notch cast and a whip smart script, it seems like all of Nichols work was done for him. But he sets just the right tone throughout the film, knowing when make us laugh and how to sell the drama. And although the film takes place in the early 80's, it has a lot of significance towards today's politics, especially the middle eastern policies and what's happened since then. So many of these "message" films are full of self-importance and an unnecessarily long running times. Charlie Wilson's War moves along quickly and is a very easy film to like.


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