Directed by: Mike Nichols
Written by: Aaron Sorkin
Starring: Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams
United States intervention worldwide occurs with various intentions and most of the time in this modern age, it does much more irreparable harm than it does any good. Through its light tone and charismatic performances, Charlie Wilson’s War displays how someone can mess things up so badly even when wanting to do good.
Known more for his partying rather than his legislating, Charlie Wilson (Tom Hanks) is made aware of the conflict occurring with the Soviet Union and Afghanistan. After witnessing the pain of this struggle, he attempts to get things rolling by helping them acquire weaponry amidst the Cold War.
As a film, Charlie Wilson’s War works as a form of manipulation in turning a story about bumbling people into a group to root for. Take the titular character, who instead of serving the constituents he swore to serve, spends most of his time partying and partaking in illicit drugs. He has no real appeal outside being written by Aaron Sorkin and being portrayed by Tom Hanks. Instantly, the behaviors of this man become a tad bit more palpable because of the talent surrounding this story. The same goes for just about every single character in this film because everything they do ends up in catastrophe for the people they’re attempting to help.
With this clash, we see the characters with authentic purposes of selfishness along with other others clouding it with supposed good intentions. It makes the character of Gust Avrakotos portrayed by Philip Seymour Hoffman such a gust (get it?) of fresh air and energy in this farce. No one can do yelling rants like Hoffman and he unloads on one of his more legendary explosions in this film. I almost wish the film fixated more on his character because his selfishness comes out in full force with no mercy. With the big hair and gaudy mustache, he brings a force of energy like no other and stands out as the greatest thing this film has to offer.
With Charlie’s intention to help the Afghan people against the Soviet Union, he goes on a tour to meet the people on the ground to see what they need in this battle. Something that would certainly help rather than just deciding what they need from afar. He does everything right except for the execution because meddling in other affairs without being properly educated causes more damage.
The story of this film admittedly comes apart like quite a mess, but the good bits it offers works so well because of the sheer amount of talent involved in the project. Mike Nichols directs this feature, and he remains one of the great American directors and he’s working with the script of an exceptional writer in Aaron Sorkin. The greatness they usually bring to their films finds its ways through the parts of the narrative that seem beneath them. For all their efforts, everything becomes a cacophony of noise saved by its cast as well.
Along with Hoffman and Hanks, this film also utilizes the services of Amy Adams, Julia Roberts, Ned Beatty, Emily Blunt, John Slattery, and many more. Out of the supporting cast, Julia Roberts sticks out as the alluring Joanne Herring. She becomes the one true driving force of the story with her financial influence. Her devious way of manipulating comes out in full force once again and she would definitely be less likable if not for the great actor portraying her. She serves as an excellent reminder that politicians may have the power to vote for legislation, but those with money essentially have all of the power in this nation. Not that we need a reminder of this statement, but it just seems harsher when seen through Julia Roberts.
Overall, I would classify Charlie Wilson’s War as a success in exposing and shedding a light on American foreign policy along with the irreparable damage it causes. Some may have good intentions but far too many interested parties can muddle whatever good grace might still exist. Whether or not this was the intention of the filmmakers involved remains to be seen, but I definitely drew that out of this quite outrageous story. Even with its ridiculousness and messiness, the film still manages to utilize its cast to uplift an inferior work when considering the writer and director involved.