Hanks's Lord of War
"Charlie Wilson's War" is one of those movies which I am sure works best if you lived through the era it's recreating, the Soviets invading Afghanistan and the feeling of hatred towards the Communists by many Americans. That doesn't mean it's terrible if you're unfamiliar with the era, in fact between the fast pace wit, clever writing and strong cast it's surprisingly entertaining although the storyline ends up becoming less and less important. And as is the case for me, someone who wasn't old enough during the 80s to be bothered about invasions going on in Afghanistan "Charlie Wilson's War" ends up a mix of entertaining performances and dialogue but a dull storyline.
Whilst Texan congressman Charlie Wilson (Tom Hanks - The Da Vinci Code) may enjoy the highlife, parties and playmates which his job brings him he's not completely oblivious of what is going on in the world especially when it comes to the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. Incensed by what he sees and with the prompting of socialite Joanne Herring (Julia Roberts - Ocean's Twelve) and CIA wizard Gust Avrakotos (Philip Seymour Hoffman - The Savages), Charlie starts to use his political power to pull some strings and supply the Afghans with the weapons to fight the Soviets. But his dream of a free Afghanistan may not be as simple as just raising money and supplying weapons.
So here's the thing I've never heard of Charlie Wilson despite "Charlie Wilson's War" being based on a true story and that's not a surprise as Charlie Wilson was the man behind the scenes who as we discover basically helped the Afghans beat the Soviets in a covert war. Okay it's a little more complex than that, with Wilson being a politician who used his influence and popularity to score the funding to buy weapons for the Afghan soldiers, but it's believable as far as I can believe there was a politician pulling strings behind the scenes to fund a war although I am sure some poetic licence was used to make it work as a movie.
But what for me makes "Charlie Wilson's War" so entertaining is the whole comedy side of things with congressman Wilson being a bit of a ladies man and finding himself in trouble for the company he keeps. It's just hilarious and even more so for his staff which consists of all attractive women. And it's not just a visual sort of comedy as the writing is great full of quick wit, subtle one liners which slide into conversations and bring a huge smile to your face.
And as such Tom Hanks is on fire as Charlie Wilson delivering line after line of quick fire banter with a brilliant Texan accent and a charm and a charisma which makes him instantly likeable. The whole character of Charlie is set up brilliantly when we first meet him in a hot tub with strippers and a sleazy character trying to talk him into backing a new TV show, it's so comical but at the same time you watch Charlie taking an interest in the news being shown on TV, which is just as comical but signals of the more dramatic storyline.
Tom Hanks is equally matched by the performances of Julia Roberts as Joanne Herring and Philip Seymour Hoffman as Gust Avrakotos making a trio who just capture your attention with brilliant quick fire dialogue infused with dead pan wit and sarcasm. But whilst this trio of heavy hitting actors are the stars it is Amy Adams who impresses as the delightful Bonnie Bach, a minor role but one which is just as captivating as those from Hanks, Roberts and Hoffman.
What this all boils down to is that "Charlie Wilson's War" is an entertaining movie which for me made me smile and laugh thanks to the clever writing and brilliant performances. But then the storyline was lost on me and at times became a little dull which I am sure is not the case for those who remember the conflict in Afghanistan during the 80s more clearly.