Tom Hanks Project – Charlie Wilson’s War Review

12 Oct

charlieposterCaitlin and I both missed this enjoyable Hanks movie when it came out and the more I read about it, the more excited I was to see it. It’s Hanks’ only movie with Philip Seymour Hoffman*, was written by Aaron Sorkin and is the last movie the great Mike Nichols ever directed**. I’d guess Caitlin shied away from it because she’s not a Julia Roberts fan*** and the word “war” in the title might have scared her off, but I have no excuse for never having seen it. I’m glad we did.

*Such a bummer, as their chemistry was really excellent.

**I didn’t realize that! I also didn’t know he was married to Diane Sawyer. Not sure how it’s relevant here but I found it interesting.


CWW hot tubAfter a brief flash forward to the ending, where Charlie’s receiving an award, we start our story with our boy Hanks in a hot tub in Vegas with strippers who are doing lines of coke*. He tunes them out because CNN is playing in the background and there’s a story about Afghanistan he was interested in**. That’s more of the Tom we’re used to than the guy in the hot tub with strippers. He gets out of the tub and as far as I can remember, we see his tush for the first time in his career.

*I love Hanks, and I think he’s a great actor, but I have to say that at this stage, this was simply not believable to me and having my “adopted uncle” in a hot tub with topless women made me very uncomfortable.

**Far more believable.

charlieandjuliaIt doesn’t take long for the coke and strippers story to come back to bite him, but he’s more concerned with using his unique position as the head of the subcommittee for defense spending and covert operations to start a secret war. Julia Roberts’ character is a Texas socialite who woos Charlie, also a Texas boy, and gets him to greatly expand the defense/covert ops budget because she feels for the Afghani people*. Actually the coke and strippers helps Charlie because it’s distracting from him slowly expanding the budget from $5 million to half a billion.

*And because she’s selfishly wanting to expand Christianity/safeguard the United States from some kind of Russian stronghold I think.

TOM HANKS and PHILIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN as Congressman Charlie Wilson and Gust Avrakotos in the film that tells the raucous true story of the largest covert operation in history: "Charlie Wilson's War".
It is an absolute treat to see Hanks and Hoffman working off each other with Aaron Sorkin dialogue and Nichols direction. Those four are absolute masters and it’s no surprise Hoffman was nominated for best supporting actor for this role as the outsider at the CIA who drinks heavily and does things his own way. He also sees the opportunity Charlie has from his position and works with him on strategy to win the cold war*.

*Should this be capitalized? I am shaming my father for my lack of historical knowledge, I can feel it.

belly dancer

This based on a true story movie takes us to Afghanistan where Charlie makes a deal while a key player is being distracted by a belly dancer. Charlie keeps making deals and somehow gets this massive war funded. The story is interesting and important, but what really makes the movie enjoyable is the dialogue Sorkin gives these actors. While the movie goes for the happy ending of Charlie being commended for his work, in real life there’s a common argument that what giving half a billion dollars worth of weapons to Afghanistan really did was fund the Taliban. So there’s that. Still, it’s a very well done film. I don’t know that it necessarily ends on a happy note, actually — Sorkin totally calls out the fact that Hoffman’s character, as well as Wilson, push for more money to get education and structure going in Afghanistan, but that the government has moved on because “the war is over,” and if I’m not mistaken there’s even some text at the end of the film that calls out the fact that things don’t really go all that well from here. It’s all very complicated and gives me very mixed feelings, politically speaking.

charlsLaugh Out Loud: Zack: 17 Caitlin: 17 Not a ton of laugh out loud moments, but it was consistently clever and fun throughout, despite some pretty heavy subject matter. Mostly I’m impressed that Zack and I laughed the exact same amount of times. I think that’s a first for us!

Comedy: Zack: 7.7 Caitlin: 5.5 Barely a comedy, but it was nominated for best comedy Golden Globe so it counts. Hanks is funny in his way and Philip Seymour Hoffman is hilarious in his intensity. Especially when breaking the windows of Hanks’ office. This was nominated for a Golden Globe in comedy?! Those Golden Globers have a mighty sick sense of humor. Tough to rank something a comedy when there are depictions of children with missing limbs because they picked up land mines.


Romantic Interest: Zack: 6 Caitlin: 6 Hanks and Roberts have solid chemistry and we believe them as a couple, but we aren’t rooting for them or anything. They both serve a purpose in each other’s lives, but it’s not going anywhere. I’ll acquiesce that Hanks and Roberts are a fun duo. As Zack said, it’s not like we’re ever led to believe they’re going to settle down, but they have a good partnership, which I think is actually even more important in this movie than their romantic relationship.

Eye Cover: Both Zero. Caitlin squinted hard when they showed missiles honing in on their targets, but she kept her eyes open so we won’t count one. Mostly I wanted to close my eyes when Wilson was walking through a “hospital” (I don’t know what else to call it, though it wasn’t a hospital — just a sort of wellness tent near the war zone).

Hanks: Zack: 8.7 Caitlin: 8.5 Very strong performance in a role that plays against type. He’s believable as a boozing Texas congressman who doesn’t mind playing dirty and working dirty but is a good enough guy deep down. It’s not my favorite Hanks, but it’s good work. By the end, I forgot it was Hanks and believed it was Charlie Wilson, so I’m ranking it higher than I would have if we’d only watched the first 30 minutes. At the start when he’s got an office full of gorgeous women working for him that he calls “the jailbait” it’s a little forced, but by the end you believe in the character of Wilson, and I found him rather enjoyable actually. Now I want to see a Friday Night Lights reboot with Hanks in it.

Movie: Zack: 8.7 Caitlin: 8.5 Charlie Wilson’s War is an undeniably well made movie. It’s slickly made with some of the best talent in the business in front of and behind the camera. It’s another solid entry in Hanks’ catalogue. It may not be his best and it’s not one I see us re-watching, but I’m a fan. I’d recommend it if you haven’t seen it. I can’t argue with anything Zack said. It’s well-written, well-made, but I guess I’m a little sick of ra-ra-America movies. That said, I do think Sorkin *tries* (sort of) to give some context and show some weaknesses in our country, but I do wonder about certain aspects of things. I do like that Roberts’ character is a pretty strong force to be reckoned with — it’s funny to me that the movie is called Charlie Wilson’s War when it is really Joanne Herring’s. That said, I’m actually far less unexcited to see Larry Crowne now that I know how Roberts and Hanks work together. Bring it on!


One Response to “Tom Hanks Project – Charlie Wilson’s War Review”


  1. Introduction to The Tom Hanks Project | rockloveaustin - November 17, 2015

    […] Charlie Wilson’s War – 2007 | Zack: 8.7 Caitlin: 8.5 […]

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