Tom Hanks is an actor I've followed since he co-starred on the ABC television series "Bosom Buddies" along with Peter Scolari. In that show they played two men who masqueraded as women to get cheap housing in an all women's hotel. I watched the show because of two reasons: I was madly in love with the full figured Wendie Jo Sperber and I enjoyed the rapport between Hanks and Scolari.
Tom Hanks went on to be one of our most respected movie actors today. In fact, he's been called "The New Jimmy Stewart" and I don't think that's far wrong. He's portrayed a wide range of characters and showed a willingness to put himself out there in roles that I don't think a lot of actors would touch. People forget that Jimmy Stewart played a murderer in one of the "Thin Man" Movies and Hanks has also showed a willingness to play against type. And in CHARLIE WILSON'S WAR he most certainly plays against type. But it's a type of character that I could embrace wholeheartedly because it's the only type of character I can see pulling off what he does.
Charlie Wilson (Tom Hanks) is a blatantly hedonistic Texas Congressman. When we first see him he's hanging out in a hot tub with strippers and they're plenty of booze and coke around. Charlie himself has been called on the carpet for his heroic consumption of both and when asked why he won't go into rehab says: "they don't" have liquor there.
You walk into his office and there's nothing but big breasted, full figured women working there. A visitor to Charlie Wilson's office comments on this and one of the workers replies: "Mr. Wilson says you can teach a bimbo to type but you can't teach her to grow breasts or ass." A line which got a cheer from me because that said to me right there that CHARLIE WILSON'S WAR was going to be refreshingly un PC. And that was reinforced by the scene where Charlie Wilson assembles his all-female staff in his office by yelling; "Jailbait!" and they all come running.
Okay, I know what you're thinking: "I thought Derrick was cool and all that but now he's reviewing and endorsing a movie about a sexist, drug and alcohol addicted pig." And you'd be right. But I review a movie for what it is and not what I think it should be and before I wrote this review I did some research on the real Charlie Wilson and apparently this movie got a lot of his true character right. So should I decry a movie for portraying a character as a sexist, drug and alcohol addicted pig if that is indeed the character? I only mention this because I know a lot of you reading my reviews are firmly PC and I am firmly not so here's your chance to bail out of reading the rest of this review. I actually liked a lot of CHARLIE WILSON'S WAR because the characters were so un PC and it was refreshing to see such characters in a movie.
Charlie Wilson is drawn into the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan by the Texas socialite Joanne Herring (Julia Roberts) who is fanatically anti-communist and uses sex as a way to get Charlie involved in providing more US funds to aid the Afghan Mujahideen to combat the superior Soviet weaponry. Charlie is more than willing as long as he can keep sleeping with Joanne and the publicity of him going over to Pakistan will divert the heat from a major publicity sex and drug scandal coming his way. But while he is touring a refugee camp Charlie sits down and talks with a young boy and his sister. The sister has no arms because they were blown off by a mine. There was a toy on the mine and the little girl wanted it. Charlie is seriously affected by this and when he goes back to Washington seriously lobbies for more funds for the Mujahideen.
Now here'ss where things get really sick: Charlie hooks up with the wildcard CIA operative Gust Avrakotos (Philip Seymour Hoffman) who tells Charlie flat out that it is not in the best interest of The United States that Afghanistan is liberated from Soviet rule. But if Charlie wants to do something about it, he's in. Together, Charlie Wilson, Gust Avrakotos and Joanne Herring manipulate, con, coerce, lie and flat out do the old okey-doke in order to get funding for the Mujahideen from The United States to successfully wage war against the Soviet war machine. Incredible as this may seem, their efforts led to controversial polices during The Reagan Administration that brought about the end of The Cold War and the ultimate collapse of The Soviet Union.
There are a lot of people of who are not going to like the politics of CHARLIE WILSON'S WAR and you know who you are. I personally was uncomfortable with the fact that the Mujahideen was such a prominent plot point of the movie and yet Osama Bin Ladin was not mentioned especially when its public knowledge he was a Mujahideen leader and was trained by the CIA. Some people are not going to like the Julia Roberts character who presumes to know what is best for people living on the other side of the world while she lies beside her pool and has minority servants bringing her vodka martinis.
But I think that is precisely why you should see CHARLIE WILSON'S WAR because the people portrayed in this movie are the ones who run the world or influence the people who run the world and we need to know who they are and how they act and think. And that's why I'm so glad CHARLIE WILSON'S WAR is so un-PC because we need to see these people for what they actually are. Not that any movie is actually going to tell you how it actually was. But at least you'll get the names and dates and you can go online and do your own research.
Tom Hanks is really good in this one. I liked Charlie Wilson maybe because he's so upfront about his womanizing, drug and alcohol use and those are traits I actually find refreshing. And he doesn't hide what he does in a lot of BS. He does it. Before the whole Afghanistan thing his major achievinement was getting re-elected five times. And this is probably the only role I've though Julia Roberts actually was sexy. And Philip Seymour Hoffman is totally brilliant. He's got a scene where he cusses out his CIA boss that in itself is Academy Award material. I liked all three of them in their roles and their acting is extremely strong. Backed up by the screenplay which was written by Aaron Sorkin, the writer of "The American President" and the creator of "The West Wing" so this guy knows politics like a monkey knows coconuts.
So should you see CHARLIE WILSON'S WAR? I would say yes. If you want to see how a trio of un-PC, alcoholic, sex-crazed, drug addicted people who have nothing in common except destroying The Soviet Union got together and pulled it off, this is your movie. CHARLIE WILSON'S WAR is a lot of fun to watch. Unless you consider politics your lifeblood. If so, make an appointment for a transfusion.