Monday, 28 January 2008

Film Review: Charlie Wilson's War (cinema)

Although Charlie Wilson's War sports some of the biggest names in Hollywood - Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts and Philip Seymour Hoffman - who are all at, if not approaching, the stage of their careers where they can sell a film by simply having their name on it, by far the biggest reason I wanted to see this film was that the screenplay is written by Aaron "The West Wing" Sorkin. A political drama film screenplayed by the man who wrote arguably the best political drama series ever made (and what is in my opinion the best TV series ever made) was something I wasn't going to pass up. Did it disappoint? Certainly not.

I'll say this now. It's not as good as The West Wing. But I wasn't expecting it to be, and if any West Wing fans went in expecting that then they'd set themselves up for a disappointment before entering the cinema. Sorkin's touch with political dialogue and situations can be felt throughout it however, and the film is all the richer and more enjoyable for that. There are scenes with large amounts of complex political language in them, much like many scenes from Sorkin's TV series, to give an authentic feel to the film. It's not worth getting bogged down in trying to understand every intricacy however, as the dialogue is by and large a vehicle to get across the character of the people saying it. And it works very well.

Tom Hanks unsurprisingly delivers in the lead role. Julia Roberts, who can become overbearing in films, also does well as Joanne Herring, a part which benefits from a lack of exposure throughout the film. It is Philip Seymour Hoffman who steals the film however as Gust Avrakotos. Hoffman provides a brilliant blend of hostility and humour whilst maintaining his character's authenticity. The scenes Hoffman shares with Hanks are absolutely excellent.

The plot, based around actual events, manages to be both poignant and funny throughout. The ending, whilst clearly sending a message about current international affairs and conflict, neither feels preachy nor tacked on, and leaves the film on a note for the viewer to ponder.

Nothing from this film stands out as a significant failing. The first fifteen minutes or so feel a little slow, but once the film gathers momentum this is forgotten and is no longer an issue. Hanks' character of Charlie Wilson could have benefited from some more background on his work as a congressman before he became involved in the Afghan conflict. These are minor niggles however.

Verdict: a highly polished and entertaining political film with an excellent cast and superb script. 8/10

1 comment:

Andy J. Wotherspoon said...

I agree that this is a good film, although I'm not entirely sure why I enjoyed it. It doesn't have the same appeal as The West Wing, but then they're two different things in a sense. I'm not much of one for political (especially American Politics) films but this was enjoyable and had a good message. There are a number of great quotes, just don't ask me to say any as I can't remember them (but that's a memory thing).