The first time the audience sees Texas congressman Charlie Wilson (Tom Hanks) in the early 1980s, he seems far from a model politician. Surrounded by strippers, a Playboy Playmate, and cocaine, the naked congressman lies in a hot tub at a party. Despite the distractions, the TV news catches Charlie's attention as Dan Rather reports from a war-torn Afghanistan. As Soviets invade the country, the Afghans lack the money and technology to defend themselves. Enter Joanne Herring (Julia Roberts), a wealthy Texan who champions the cause of Afghanistan and, by extension in the Cold War, America. Together with CIA Agent Gust Avrakotos (Philip Seymour Hoffman), Charlie begins a secret war where he must unite Israel, Pakistan, Egypt, and America to defeat the Soviets. Just as director Mike Nichols brought a sense of fun to what should have been dour proceedings in films such as THE GRADUATE and CLOSER, this comedy about the largest covert war to date never feels like a history lesson. Writer Aaron Sorkin's dialogue is as sharp as fans have come to expect, and it's delivered with impressive verve from the film's trio of Oscar winners. Hoffman is famous for transforming into various characters, and he's remarkable, but it's Hanks's turn that's the most surprising. Outwardly, Charlie could resemble many of Hanks's previous roles, but the actor adds layers to the character and changes without the aid of makeup or prosthetics. Based on a true story as written by George Crile, the script for CHARLIE WILSON'S WAR displays all the trademark wit of Sorkin's writing. As in Sorkin's other work, notably THE WEST WING and THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT, the characters in CHARLIE WILSON'S WAR display a fierce love of their country. The screenwriter's own politics often rise to the surface, but this smart comedy never feels preachy.
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"It's quite a yarn, and the filmmakers relate it with clarity and verve....[There is] a bracing, cheering present-day moral to be found in Charlie Wilson's story, a reminder that high principles are not incompatible with the pleasure principle."
New York Times - A. O. Scott (12/21/2007)
"[I]t's all about a likable scoundrel who discovers what it means to act out of conviction....A journalistic satire of realpolitik..." -- Grade: B+
Entertainment Weekly - Owen Gleiberman (12/21/2007)
3 stars out of 5 -- " [Hoffman is] sly, bumptious and brilliant...He brings Gust such gusto that the energy level spikes whenever he's on screen."
Total Film - Matthew Leyland (01/01/2008)
3 stars out of 4 -- "Hoffman is the film's sparkling live wire."
Rolling Stone - Peter Travers (12/27/2007)
4 stars out of 5 -- "[T]he tone is sophisticated and the handling is remarkably light and adept."
Uncut - Tom Charity (02/01/2008)
4 stars out of 5 -- "[I]t's during the sparkling exchanges between the leads that the movie takes off. Hanks infuses Wilson with a bounce of charm we haven't seen from him in years.'
Empire - Chris Hewitt (02/01/2008)
"The material certainly works as satire. The dialogue -- trademark Sorkin -- is all quickfire and smart, with witty wordplay that harks back to the screwball comedies of the 1930s and 1940s."
Sight and Sound - Hannah Patterson (03/01/2008)