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Wick's Review

Created Dec 31, 2007 04:20AM PST • Edited Mar 27, 2015 06:03PM PST

  1. Quality
  2. Perfect 5.0

    Charlie Wilson’s War is great American comedy, successful on many levels: belly-laugh funny, serious as a crutch, magnificently produced, charismatically performed. How could it not be? A feel good story about an oh-so-likable Texas Congressman taking it to the Evil Empire when no one else would, Tom Hanks as good as he’s ever been, Philip Seymour Hoffman in his most belly laugh funny role yet, and the estimable Mike Nichols directing a script from West Wing major domo Aaron Sorkin: this rich set of ingredients combines with a stylish and assured turn by Julia Roberts to create a movie that is politically deep and hedonistically shallow at the same time.

    In this regard, I think it is superior to Sorkin’s A Few Good Men, since that one was fictional and far from funny. Further placing it high in the pantheon is to compare it to Forrest Gump, Hanks’ other All-Time-Great comedy drama. Admittedly still in the flush of just seeing CWW, I’m thinking it every bit the equal of the Great Gump.

    Finally, what about the legendary Mike Nichols, where does CWW stand within his oeuvre? I’m thinking it is funnier than Carnal Knowledge (though Nicholson was a hoot in that picture) and as trenchant as The Graduate. In short, as good as anything he’s ever done. Which is really saying something.

  3. Perfect 5.0

    Tom Hanks may not be the single greatest movie star, but who else has been at the center of so many all-time great movies? None that I can think of, even going back to Bogie and the other old time greats. If nothing else, Charlie Wilson proves Tom Hanks’ good old days are still happening.

    Phillip Seymour Hoffman gives a career performance here, which is saying something for the man who became Capote. He is devastatingly funny as a CIA guy, who “with three other guys” was ineffectually trying to hamstring the Soviets from further spreading their evil around the world.

    Julia Roberts, just this side of caricature – inform Mr. DeMille she’s ready for her close-up if she goes any farther – nonetheless handily pulls off the role of the rich, beautiful Texas divorcee with right-as-rails instincts about the biggest geopolitical issue of her time. That said, watch the video of the woman she’s playing to see that the Roberts version is harder and less attractive than the real life Joanne Herring.

    Three cheers also for Charlie’s Girl Friday, played with dewy intelligence by Amy Adams, the best new starring actress since Reese Witherspoon hit the big time. Enchanted indeed, Adams’ loyal assistant maintains a constant look of frustrated adoration in the presence of Hanks’ randy boss man.

    Last but not least are Charlie’s Angels, quite simply the comeliest set of office girls any red blooded elected representative could hope to have: Wynn Everett, Mary Bonner Baker, Rachel Nichols, and Shiri Appelby as the evocatively named “JailBait.” Charlie brags that he hired them for their natural attributes, then taught them typing, but somewhere along the way they also learned crack PR skills.

  4. Male Stars Perfect 5.0
  5. Female Stars Perfect 5.0
  6. Female Costars Perfect 5.0
  7. Male Costars Perfect 5.0
  8. Perfect 5.0

    Sumptuously mounted, this rich and accomplished production pegs the Hollywood Treatment meter for (reasonably) current-event movies. The costuming alone is fabulous. Forget Julia Roberts’ gowns and jewels, just check out Hanks’ suits, ties and braces. They dressed him up mighty nice.

  9. Direction Perfect 5.0

    The film has style and gumption, brass and pathos, momentum and gravitas. Mike Nichols and his producers (including a fellow named Tom Hanks) have made themselves a sure Best Picture contender. To make this movie about this topic at this time – while operating in the adolescently anti-war zone that is today’s Hollywood – is nothing short of legendary.

  10. Play Perfect 5.0

    Starting from the story that he produced for “60 Minutes,” George Crile wrote the book on Charlie and his war, from which Aaron Sorkin wrote perhaps his best script yet. Well, maybe not, his script for A Few Good Men was probably better, but the dialogue in CWW delivers its wallops with a healthy dose of belly laughs, a rare commodity these days.

  11. Music Perfect 5.0
  12. Visuals Perfect 5.0

    The Afghan refugee camp scenes are among the most moving of any movie in quite some time. The Vegas party scenes are among the most amusing.

  13. Content
  14. Risqué 2.0
  15. Sex Titillating 2.1

    No sex shown, but a few bare breasts bob into view.

  16. Violence Fierce 2.1

    The aftermath of military violence directed explicitly at civilian populations – i.e., Terrorism – is a sight every modern citizen should witness.

  17. Rudeness Salty 1.7
  18. Glib 1.4

    Wonderfully glib, all in the spirit of buoyant truthiness. I address this in some detail in the circoreality commentary below.

  19. Circumstantial Glib 1.7

    As is often the case when movies are “Based on Real Events,” the macro circumstances seem plausible, while the movie-perfect plot twists are Hollywood glib.

    The larger reality question in the case of CWW is the wisdom and rightness of aiding the mujahadeen in their fight against the Soviet oppressors. Clearly Charlie Wilson’s actions – America’s actions – also armed them for their later turn towards religious tyranny and global jihad, a point the movie makes with several prescient interchanges. However, let’s cut poor Charlie a break. It is tough enough waging a global Cold War against an Evil Empire without having to also forestall a coming extremist threat before it has materialized. In short, supernatural foresight only works in the movies.

    Besides, the movie poses a tidy political litmus test: who was the bad political actor in the “Stans?” America, for helping freedom fighters ward off tyranny in Afghanistan; or the communists and jihadis, each of which pursued its own brand of world killing tyranny?

    The right answer is the latter. The Left’s answer is … well, I’ve long since stopped approaching geopolitics from the left, so it’s not for me to say.

  20. Biological Glib 1.4

    I’m rating it 140% of human bioreality because I doubt the real Charlie Wilson could have drank as heavily as shown and still functioned at such a continuously alert level, Texas legend though he may have been.

  21. Physical Natural 1.0


Subscribe to Charlie Wilson's War 5 replies, 3 voices
Nov 11, 2011 7:26PM

Regarding BigdaddyDave’s Review
Curious move at the least.

Nov 11, 2011 6:31PM

Regarding BigdaddyDave’s Review
Two fascinating observations in your review BigD:

  • Afghan music overlaid atop European.
  • Afghan actors listed below their European peers. For shame.
Jan 4, 2008 12:19AM

I’m glad you agreed with me. I have come across some Julia Roberts fans that think anything she does is gold. Unfortunately for them, I don’t have the same view. I think that Julia has done some incredible acting, but it’s limited and those incredible roles are normally few and far between.