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"Charlie Wilson's War"

Directed by Mike Nichols.
Written by Aaron Sorkin.
Starring Tom Hanks, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams and Julia Roberts.
Release Year:  2007
Review Date:  12/4/07


Although this film won't force me to watch "The West Wing" on DVD, even I have to admit that the writing abilities of Aaron Sorkin are excellent, if the new film "Charlie Wilson's War" is any indication.

Tom Hanks plays Congressman Charlie Wilson, a womanizing rep from Texas who loves booze, profanity, a nice set of knockers and working for the US government when we meet him in 1980.  One night while entertaining strippers and a Playboy model at a hotel suite in Vegas, Wilson gets into a Dan Rather CBS News report from Afghanistan detailing the ongoing war between the Afghani people and the Russians.  This, combined with meetings in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Israel stemming from Wilson's relationship with the sixth-wealthiest woman in Texas, Joanne Herring (Julia Roberts), lead Wilson to decide to use his power within a government subcommittee to do one single thing: help the Afghanis shoot down a bunch of Russian helicopters.  With help from CIA analyst Gust Avrakotos (Philip Seymour Hoffman), Wilson sets off to raise money to covertly raise arms money for the people of Afghanistan to fight the Russian army.

"Charlie Wilson's War", based on a true story, is a fantastic mix of comedy and drama; in telling a story about how small government can be if decisionmakers hold the keys to the kingdom, Sorkin seems to be very comfortable as we squeak through a lot of potential logistical nightmares to just focus on Wilson, Avrakotos, women, and surface-to-air missiles.  The film is laugh-out-loud funny a few times, but generally, it is amusing, and that works well given the context of this story.  Hoffman's first scene alone seems to ensure he will get an Oscar nom for this performance, but the guy just gets better and better all the time and his character--not even sure if he's a real guy or not--balances the Wilson character well.  Hanks is great, and Roberts (she hasn't been onscreen since "Ocean's Twelve" three years ago) makes you remember what made her such a star back in the day; even now, her awkward beauty plays well with her strong presence to good effect here, because her character only shows up a few times throughout "Charlie Wilson's War."

I think that this film is an A-, not an A+, in that it didn't make me run out of the theater thinking that I should call everyone I know to tell them to see this right now.  (Of course, you couldn't do that anyway, since this doesn't come out until Christmas.)  But, as solid adult entertainment goes, I think that "Charlie Wilson's War" is great stuff and will be a contender come Oscar time.

Rating:  Opening Weekend


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09