Charlie Wilson’s War (Universal Pictures, R)

film_charliewilson_sm.jpgCharlie Wilson’s War takes a subversively comedic look at the inner workings of the government and the people we elect to it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Charlie (Tom Hanks) sure does know how to party. A few strippers, some booze, a hot tub and a little cocaine is all it takes for this Texas congressman to have a good time. He may have to register a vote for his district tomorrow, but a little work can’t keep a good politician down.

As congressman to one of the country’s wealthiest districts in the early 1980s, Charlie had his business down to a science: voting to make sure his constituents could keep their guns plentiful and their taxes low, while living a life of joyful debauchery for all to see. But, when Charlie is called to action by longtime friend Joanne (Julia Roberts), his nonstop joyride turns into a decade-long mission. Charlie Wilson’s War is based on the true story of how they gather support for a covert war with the Soviet Union, using the conflict being waged in Afghanistan by the Soviets and local freedom fighters.

While Joanne brings Charlie on board with her considerable charms, Charlie uses his charm, wit and intelligence to get the right people behind him. One person who needs no convincing is ballsy, outspoken CIA operative Gust Avrakotos (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Always ready for a fight, Gust seeks Charlie out and joins him as he travels the world determined to bring down the Soviets once and for all.

This movie has a bit of M*A*S*H in its blood. Charlie Wilson’s War takes a subversively comedic look at the inner workings of the government and the people we elect to it. The film manages to be funny and still take the subject of war surprisingly serious.

It was good to hear from writer Aaron Sorkin and not be sent into a trance from the dizzying pace of insider dialogue. He manages to detail the machinations and political wrangling that went into making this effort work without losing the audience or making us feel preached to.

As solid as the script is, the performances are what really make Charlie Wilson’s War shine. Here we get to see Hanks as smooth, charming, smart, in control and slutty. Charlie is a man who fills his congressional office with a group of young female aides in tight clothes and makes no bones about calling them "Charlie’s Angels." One of the revelations here is how well everyman Hanks fits the role. It seems as though he’s been waiting for a part like this his whole working life.

While watching Hanks and Roberts is enjoyable, seeing Hoffman play Gust to the hilt is more fun than you can even imagine. Gust is a gruff company man who looks like he’d never be able to survive 20 years as a secret agent. His talents are intelligence, knowing his opponent, and giving more crap than any foe can dish out. Hoffman’s performance is simply unbelievable and he outshines everyone when he takes the screen. I will be very shocked if he doesn’t get a second Oscar for his work here. | Adrienne Jones

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