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Movie Review: Charlie Wilson’s War

Dan Ives
Sky-Hi Daily News movie reviewer

Most people’s thoughts of a congressman are pretty boring, and when you add Southerner, Texan, and Democrat to the equation, it does not help the image much.

In 2003, George Crile published “Charlie Wilson’s War: The Extraordinary Story of the Largest Covert Operation in History,” which contradicted our stereotypical image a congressman has today or has ever had.

This movie is an adapted story of Grile’s Charlie Wilson, played by Tom Hanks and CIA agent Gust Avrakotos, portrayed by Phillip Seymoure Hoffman, and their covert actions to help repulse the Soviet Union from their invasion of Afghanistan that started in 1979. Also adding to the film are Julia Roberts as Wilson’s romantic interest and anti-communist compass, Joanne Herring, and Amy Adams as Wilson’s aide, Bonnie Bach.

Silver Screen welcomed this movie on Friday, Jan.11, and I think I was the youngest person watching.

I guess words like “Soviet Union” and “Cold War” attracted the generations before me to see this movie. An expectation of a movie with the word “War” in the title would be to have many action scenes, but for this film, it is not the case. It did not achieve its rating of R from gory scenes but from the words chosen by the characters to present their personalities. Most of the scenes are banter between the main characters or watching Tom Hanks fill his role of a silver tongued politician. Whether Hanks is obtaining more funds from congressional committees to help the Afghan’s fight Russians or convincing the Pakistan president to help the Afghan cause, there is not much Hanks cannot do. Even though you probably already know what is going to happen in the end, Hanks’ performance is unconfident yet determined which does not let you sit back in your seat while Hanks was on the screen. You become nervous when Wilson is on the defense and is trying to present his argument on why the United States should help Afghanistan. Obviously the United States cannot overtly help because it is the Cold War. Everything has to be from behind the curtains, like the Wizard in Oz. All of this tension transfers quite well to the audience.

Hoffman is amazing. It is not fair that Julia Robert’s name came before his since she had much less screen time. The opening scene with Hoffman’s character will have you aching for more. He’s everything an 80’s CIA agent should be, overweight, stressed out, BCG’s (Birth Control Glasses), and hairy. Hoffman definitely has some of the better lines in this film leaving you laughing because you genuinely cannot help it.

Julia Roberts starts off strong but tapers off before the middle of the film. You will like her character and it’s determination to take down the Soviet Union but as time progresses, the flaws start to come out. While this is not unplanned, I did like the fact I truly disliked her character. Compare it to a bad driver who cuts you off or the customer in front of you in line that complains about the twenty ingredient latte that they need right this moment. I was happy when Robert’s was not on screen, which is a little disappointing because she had a stunning intro that you could compare to “Pretty Woman.”

Amy Adams’ role is like an aide should be, supportive but not in the light, helpful but does not take credit. Liking Adam’s character is not hard but she is easy to forget when Hanks, Hoffman and Roberts are on screen.

I would recommend seeing this in theatres several times and then go out and buy it the day it is released to video. It’s that good. Even with a political theme that references today’s crisis’s, it’s not a hard film to enjoy. A great movie is one that makes you want to quit what you are doing and read up on everything related to the topic with the hopes of becoming that character in that situation. I want to be a politician in the 1980s that takes down the Soviet Union. Where do I sign up?


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