Friday, 11 January 2008

Charlie Wilson's War - Review by Carmody Wilson

Director: Mike Nichols
Screenwriter: Aaron Sorkin
Certificate: 15
Running Time: 97 mins
Release Date: Jan 11th

Brad Pitt can keep dusting pictures, Johnny Depp can dance and sing his way back to France, and Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe can shelve their yell-y ambitions for another Oscar rematch because this year’s man is Tom Hanks. Played subtle, smooth, and wry, Hanks’ Charlie Wilson is the performance of the year, hands, guns, straight razors down. Shuffling alongside him, reeking right off the screen of smoke, yesterday’s dishes, and last week’s laundry is the impeccable Philip Seymour Hoffman, playing his earthy schtick to rumpled perfection. Adorning the screen with an actually not-bad performance is a rejuvenated Julia Roberts and Mike Nichols, at the top of his game, directs Aaron Sorkin’s best screenplay.

Set in the deadly malaise of 1980’s American House of Representatives in Washington, Charlie Wilson’s War deals with the rather politically incorrect titular hero, who sees no reason why a man who staffs his office with comely women and indulges in mid-morning drink shouldn’t also be a responsible politician. Inquiring into the state of US involvement in the conflict in Afghanistan ( referred to by disinterested parties variously as Pakistan, Turkistan, etc,) lead Wilson, the member of several House committees, to operate the most cover overt funding spree in the history of US politics. Typical of Sorkin, there is a lot of walking and talking, notes passed in and out, interrupting phone calls and incoherent politico-babble, but also typical of Sorkin, it’s brainy, well-informed and damned exciting. Nichols’s pacing ensures that every step is documented and accounted for, but whipped around with cross-continental flights, talky action sequences and great on-screen chemistry. All of the back-benching and intrigue is played out with an even hand, and giving each event, whether it be a party in Texan mansion or a visit to a refugee camp an immediacy and accessibility that even the most politically disinterested film-goer couldn’t help but feel involved. Tom Hanks owns this film, and as the ass-slapping, whisky-drinking, dedicated and motivated Wilson, he shows us that he’s so much more than a feel-good actor.

Charlie Wilson’s War is a great political film wrapped in a thriller wrapped in a comedy. Its message is never drowned out by the performances, the timing, or the script, but all of these elements come together to ensure that Tom Hanks’ performance and Mike Nichols’ directing get their place at the top. Mission Accomplished.

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