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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

POSTER ART
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FILM DETAILS
Certificate
TBC
Cast
Tom Hanks
Julia Roberts
Phillip Seymour Hoffman
Amy Adams
Ken Stott
Emily Blunt.
Directors
Mike Nichols.
Screenwriters
Aaron Sorkin.
Running Time
97 minutes

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Charlie Wilson's War
Or, How Tom Hanks Won The Cold War From A Hot Tub


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Plot
In the early ‘80s, Congressman Charlie Wilson (Hanks) organised, with the help of a socialite (Roberts) and a CIA loose cannon (Hoffman), the covert US support of Afghani rebels fighting against the Soviets...


Review
Charlie Wilson's War
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Charlie Wilson’s War stands a better chance of success than any of the ‘current climate’ movies so far. Why? Well, unlike, say, Lions For Lambs, it’s a film in which its stars get to twinkle and, while it’s undoubtedly a politically-motivated film that compares America’s attitude towards Afghanistan during the Cold War to today’s snafu in Iraq, there’s not a soapbox in sight.

When we first meet Wilson, he’s naked in a hot tub with some Vegas strippers, a JD and Coke, and actual coke. Of course, this  is how we imagine all politicians behave behind closed doors, but it’s still startling to see how openly debauched Wilson was. He’s a ladies’ man, a boozehound, human. But even while all this is happening, we glimpse the complexity that made Wilson an unlikely hero. The usual approach would be to have Wilson discover the error of his ways, before a big emotional moment when he realises the scope of the crisis in Afghanistan and, dammit, decides to do something about it! Real life, though, isn’t so conventional and so, in the opening scene, Wilson spies a news report about the Russian occupation from his perch in the hot tub, and is immediately inspired to act.

What follows is a breezy romp in which Wilson, with help from his lover Joanne Herring (Roberts), the sixth-richest woman in Texas, and CIA agent Gust Avrakotos (Hoffman), uses all his political nous to boost the funding of Afghani rebels, all without the Americans or the Russians finding out. In scenes where Wilson tries to broker a truce between Israeli and Egyptian agents, most notably one involving a belly dancer, you are reminded that Nichols directed one of the best comedies about the absurdity of war: Catch-22.

But it’s during the sparkling exchanges between the leads that the movie takes off. Hanks infuses Wilson with a bounce and charm we haven’t seen from him in years, while Roberts brings a regal air to the underwritten Herring. Still, if Hoffman doesn’t get Oscar-nominated for his turn as the tactless but tuned-in yin to Wilson’s yang, then someone should start a sub-committee to investigate. From his intro, where he smashes his superior’s office window in a rage, everything Hoffman says and does is a perfectly modulated hoot.

Given the subject, darkness inevitably lurks beneath the larks, and it’s here that Nichols loses his grasp of the movie’s tone, from a disconcerting sequence showing Russian gunships strafing an Afghani village to some jarring shots of a red-eyed Wilson alone in his apartment, struggling with his demons. Cutting from these to light comedy is a struggle even for this master.

Only towards the very end, when Wilson runs aground in the face of American indifference to finishing what it started by stabilising Afghanistan politically and socially — a failure which may well have led to the growth of Islamic extremism in the Middle East — does the movie successfully cross the line from wry comedy to rueful drama. The last shot of Wilson, in particular, beautifully illustrates the sharp regret of a man who can see the future and doesn’t like it one little bit.


Verdict
Extremely enjoyable. Although it’s a little tonally unsure, whenever Hanks and Hoffman are on screen, any misgivings are forgiven.


Reviewed by Chris Hewitt

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Charlie Wilson's War
Empire Star Rating

RE: Sorkin vs. the USSR

Watching this now, God bless you Philip Seymour Hoffman. You were one hell of an entertaining actor. ... More

Posted by Hood_Man at 22:20, 09 February 2014 | Report This Post


Sorkin vs. the USSR

Aaron Sorkin takes on the Soviets... and kind of wins...? That's one way to sum up "Charile Wilson's War", the 'based on true events' version of the U.S.'s response to the Russian invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980's. "The West Wing" finally makes it to the big screen in all but name, as Tom Hanks, as the eponymous senator, makes his way through the anti-rooms of power in Washington DC, trying to avoid a personal scandal whilst trying to effect a drastic change to America's ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by neopol at 13:40, 22 February 2011 | Report This Post


A good show

Interesting (and true!) story.....sharp, witty script.....excellent lead performances. Well worth watching! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Hillsman at 12:21, 18 May 2009 | Report This Post


Charlie Wilson's War

I thought this was OK, but distinctly average, Hanks was good but a little bit under used, if it wasn't for Hoffmans performance there wouldn't be much point in seeing this, the whole film basically amounts to Wilson getting a shit load of funding for the Afghan resistance and the film then ends, theres a kind of suggestion that the Americans didn't follow things through after the Russians withdrawal but thats only very vaguely hinted at. I kind of wonder if this would ... More

Posted by Indio at 00:26, 09 March 2009 | Report This Post


An interesting insight in to the Americans involvement in the Soviet Union invasion of Afghanistan, Charlie Wilsons War begins somewhat pointlessly with Charlie Wilson (Hanks) receiving an award from the Clandestine Services for his part in helping Afghan rebels overcome their oppressors. From there on we are introduced to the real Mr Wilson, a bit of a cad who likes to be in the company of gorgeous women as much as he likes his liquor. Inspired in to action by one said gorgeous woman (Rober... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by gepete80 at 11:56, 23 December 2008 | Report This Post


RE: Charlie Wilson's War

great script by aaron sorkin, but not quite pulled off by the actors, bar phillip seymour hoffman. tom hanks and julia roberts really didn't click and weren't quite right for it ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by bobbydee at 00:28, 24 September 2008 | Report This Post


RE: Charlie Wilson's War

L: Wilbert L: shinjikojima A fun picture with a lot to like about it, but paper-thin. The problem is there's no real obstacles. Charlie wants money, he gets money. He want out of hot water with his philandering, he gets out. Whatever Charlie wants, Charlie gets. Doesn't make for great drama or depth of character. It feels like an extended episode of a TV show. It feels like Sorkin has been doing TV too long. The best part of this film is Hoffman, steals every scene he's in as usua... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Najemikon at 00:50, 23 September 2008 | Report This Post


Great

An enjoyable comedy drama written by the master Aaron Sorkin with great performances by the three leads. But Charlie seems to get what he wants fairly easily, leading to a lack of real conflict or strife. Apart from that, it's a great movie. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Caster at 14:31, 12 July 2008 | Report This Post


Charlie Wilson's War

Hanks and Hoffman both good but the film struggles in many aspects. The Soviet gunships and steroetypical description was amateur whilst the film really loses its way replacing story with humour and suffers as a result. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by qualidad at 09:54, 16 May 2008 | Report This Post


Funny but insightful Charlie Wilson's War

Funny, smart, biting, intelligent. It's a short but memorable ride. Great work by Hoffman, Adams, and Hanks. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by lynnshep at 13:52, 06 May 2008 | Report This Post


Funny but insightful Charlie Wilson's War

Funny, smart, biting, intelligent. It's a short but memorable ride. Great work by Hoffman, Adams, and Hanks. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by lynnshep at 13:52, 06 May 2008 | Report This Post


Funny but insightful Charlie Wilson's War

Funny, smart, biting, intelligent. It's a short but memorable ride. Great work by Hoffman, Adams, and Hanks. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by lynnshep at 13:52, 06 May 2008 | Report This Post


RE: Charlie Wilson's War

sp; Really enjoyed this. A great story of the colourful but dedicated life of a down-to-earth but playboy congressman. Phillip Seymour Hoffman was outstanding as the forgotten CIA agent Gust - "I've spent the last three years learning Finnish, which should come in handy here in Virginia!" p; Would have been interesting to see what it would have been like if George Clooney had beat Tom Hanks to the titular role. Whatever though, one of the most underrated films at the awards season. ... More

Posted by Goodfella at 23:48, 05 May 2008 | Report This Post


RE: Charlie Wilson's War

Actually, quite underrated, I felt ths movie was rather good, with an impressive cast, great script, good directing and a hilariously brilliant performance form Phillip Seymour Hoffman, an actor I would listen to if he said the world was flat and George Bush the resurrected Jesus. The script pretty much was an episode of The West Wing with enough dryness to make soap suds shrivel. Tom Hanks is great as the drinking, snorting, but loveable and caring Charlie Wilson, and Julia Roberts shines a... More

Posted by Dunder_Mifflin at 21:53, 05 May 2008 | Report This Post


RE: Charlie Wilson's War

I thought this film was absolutely fantastic - Hanks is as good as I've seen him in ages and Seymour-Hoffman has taken up residence on his own personal plateau of acting brilliance.   His run in with his CIA boss was outstanding - funny, heartfelt, seething and utterly believable.   As for the story - that's the way it happened so I'm not sure what people are complaining about. Accusations that it somehow came too easily to him go against the facts - he actually had to get Eg... More

Posted by Fluke Skywalker at 11:48, 30 April 2008 | Report This Post


RE: Charlie Wilson's War

L: shinjikojima A fun picture with a lot to like about it, but paper-thin. The problem is there's no real obstacles. Charlie wants money, he gets money. He want out of hot water with his philandering, he gets out. Whatever Charlie wants, Charlie gets. Doesn't make for great drama or depth of character. It feels like an extended episode of a TV show. It feels like Sorkin has been doing TV too long. The best part of this film is Hoffman, steals every scene he's in as usual and that'... More

Posted by Wilbert at 17:41, 05 February 2008 | Report This Post


RE: Charlie Wilson

L: Scabby my review guys hope you like and I appreciated and feedback.ttp://www.hecklerspray.com/movie-review-charli e-wilson%e2%80%99s-war/200811802.php#more-11802 Well, if your review is as well written as this sentence it must be great! ... More

Posted by Wilbert at 17:39, 05 February 2008 | Report This Post


Aaron Sorkin Strikes Again!

This film was reminiscent of the brilliant tones and intellect of The West Wing. Fast and engaging, the storyline was effective without boring you to tears with dry political satire. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by filmbuff_ut at 14:00, 28 January 2008 | Report This Post


RE: Charlie Wilson's War

Saw it in the sneak preview in cinema last night: The screenplay for the new film with Tom Hanks and Philip Seymour Hoffman is written by the same genius that brought us The West Wing: Aaron Sorkin. That this film is written by Sorkin is quite obvious when you`re familiar with The West Wing. This whole movie has the same style to it: highly paced with catchy dialogues, black humour and great acting. Especially Seymour Hoffman is fantastic. With his mix of humour and great performance he g... More

Posted by TheGodfather at 20:23, 25 January 2008 | Report This Post


Super Sorkin

If you loved The West Wing, you're gonna love this. Smart, political, interesting, brilliantly acted and very, very witty. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by timbailey60 at 10:58, 24 January 2008 | Report This Post


RE: Charlie Wilson's War

charlie wilson's war is a very good film. well written, very witty in places, and tom hanks and julia roberts give their best performances in ages, but it is phillip seyomore hoffman who steals the show. reccommended. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by filmnutrob at 17:30, 21 January 2008 | Report This Post


RE: Informative but fun!

Castor's review of Wilson's Waritesized bullet points: - Very witty script - Superb performance from Seymour Hoffman - Good performance from Hanks - Julia Roberts is pointless (both as character and actor) - Interesting story but not much to it. 3/5 ... More

Posted by Castor Troy at 18:05, 20 January 2008 | Report This Post


RE: Informative but fun!

Cracking film, mainly thanks to Hoffmans sterling performance, but Hanks is reliable as ever.   As sound as Roberts was in her (under-written) role, I just couldnt take her seriously as a character. She's starting to look like Joan Rivers and it's very distracting. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Cartman at 01:30, 18 January 2008 | Report This Post


RE: Informative but fun!

L: 02PARSIM Tom Hanks is one of my all time favourite actors, if a movie is made starring Tom Hanks, or Johnny Depp, I am pretty much guaranteed to see that movie. Toy Story 1 and 2, Castaway, Saving Private Ryan (okay not perfect but good), Philadelphia, whatever the movie Hanks pretty much delivers a killer performance. That and I genuinely like the man, he seems a nice guy. Even when I saw him on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross the other night I couldn't help but smile and think jus... More

Posted by The Mighty at 01:17, 18 January 2008 | Report This Post


Informative but fun!

Tom Hanks is one of my all time favourite actors, if a movie is made starring Tom Hanks, or Johnny Depp, I am pretty much guaranteed to see that movie. Toy Story 1 and 2, Castaway, Saving Private Ryan (okay not perfect but good), Philadelphia, whatever the movie Hanks pretty much delivers a killer performance. That and I genuinely like the man, he seems a nice guy. Even when I saw him on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross the other night I couldn't help but smile and think just how great a person h... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by 02PARSIM at 22:19, 17 January 2008 | Report This Post


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