With a superstar cast, a game director in Mike Nichols, and a wickedly satirical script courtesy of Aaron Sorkin, Charlie Wilson’s War seems to have everything going for it. But there’s one fatal flaw: it’s too short.
Based on the purportedly true story of the titular character (played by Tom Hanks), a Democratic Congressman from Texas’ second district who liked women and alcohol and somehow managed to lead a campaign to deliver $1 billion of aid to the Afghan resistance in their fight against invading Russian forces.
We know what eventually happened in Afghanistan, but the rise of the Taliban is something that the film deftly side steps; the country in need of aid could have been anywhere and the movie would still work – knowing what happened to the country afterwards just doubles the razor-sharp irony.
Hanks is superb as the Texan senator with a thick southern drawl, but Phillip Seymour Hoffman steals the show as Gust Avrakotos (yes, the film has a lot of fun pronouncing his name too), the no-bullshit CIA agent who helps Wilson get his financing.
Julia Roberts, however, as Joanne Herring, the wealthy socialite who initially urges Wilson to help Afghanistan, isn’t given much to do; one wonders why they chose an actor of her caliber for the role.
Sorkin’s script takes a number of shots of politics and most of them hit dead-on; we’ve come a long way since Capra’s vision of Washington, D.C.
I only wish the film took it’s time; it often feels rushed, and though this can be understood from writer Sorkin’s standpoint – he had his greatest successes on television, with Sports Night and The West Wing – it truly brings the film down a notch.