Starring: Tom Hanks, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams
Director: Mike Nichols
Running Time: 101 mins
Charlie Wilson’s War is an American film about the true story of US Congressman Charlie Wilson, and his role in developing the military strategy to supply the mujahideen in Afghanistan to fight the Soviets.
Both an interesting history on its own as well as a story with a striking relevance to events that persist to this day, Charlie Wilson’s War is a great watch for a further insight into the infamous story of the United States’ alliance with Afghan fighters to defeat the Soviets. But despite its informative value, there’s not much about Charlie Wilson’s War that really stands out, failing to capitalise on great opportunities for striking irony and dark humour, as well as presenting its story and core message in rather muddled fashion throughout.
But we’ll talk about that later, because the main thing that I really liked about this movie was its historical value. Whether or not it’s an entirely accurate depiction of how Congressman Wilson and those around him played into this infamous piece of history, this film still does a great job at telling a historically engaging story, and for those looking for an insight into just that, Charlie Wilson’s War is absolutely worth the watch.
If you’re approaching this entirely from the cold, with no prior knowledge of the significance of the events with regards to modern events, then there is an element of the story that will be a little lost on you. That’s not to say that it’s not an engaging and informative watch for anyone, but this is the sort of film that doesn’t spoon-feed you with some of its more subtle ideas, which on the one hand is a bonus, but can lessen the impact of the story to a degree for some.
Another big plus here comes in the form of the performances. Tom Hanks takes a break from his typically more positive, pure roles to give something a little more shifty, still retaining his effortless charisma, but turning it up to a degree that makes Congressman Wilson that little bit suspicious and unsettling at times, playing into themes of corruption and government unaccountability.
The supporting turns from Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams in particular are great, with a fantastic blend of comedic and dramatic ability playing well into the film’s atmosphere, although some other turns, such as Julia Roberts’, just don’t hit the mark quite as well.
On the whole, Charlie Wilson’s War is a decent film, but where it unfortunately falls apart is in trying to bring together some of its more complex ideas in a properly entertaining, cinematic fashion. Some of the performances nail the comedy-drama blend well, but the film as a whole misses the mark a little, with an often too simplistic and one-dimensional portrayal of the events at play, missing out on the opportunity to hit home with some striking dramatic irony throughout.
Although the screenplay does come from the legendary Aaron Sorkin, I felt that the style of comedy-drama here just wasn’t right for the story, and that the film could have been better handled in the style of someone like Jason Reitman, with a more sarcastic, pointed approach to the film’s core themes, and perhaps a bolder style of irony that would have worked far better.
Unfortunately, Charlie Wilson’s War is a bit of a mess atmospherically, never really finding a perfect middleground between its historically engaging drama and its more light-hearted side, which can make for a frustrating and often distracting watch at times.
Otherwise, though, the film is good enough for those who want a deeper insight into an often remarked-upon but still fairly obscure part of history whose repercussions are felt to this day. With good performances and informative history, Charlie Wilson’s War does just about enough to make for a good watch, but is far from the most cinematic or memorable film you’ll ever see, so that’s why I’m giving it a 7.2 overall.