Charlie Wilson's War
Directed by Mike Nichols (The Graduate, Primary Colors) and starring Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts, the chief virtue of Charlie Wilson’s War is a commendably tight script by Aaron Sorkin. The West Wing’s creator provides insider-guide knowledge of Washington politics to this adaptation of George Crile’s hefty book, which details the true story of how maverick senator Charlie ‘Good Time’ Wilson covertly aided the Mujahideen in their struggle against the Soviet Empire back in the 1980s. As a liberal politician with a coke and hookers habit more in keeping with Republican stereotypes, Hanks plays Wilson with Gump-ish charisma, while Roberts fares less well in an underwritten role as a Texas socialite, leaving Phillip Seymour Hoffman to work up some buddy-buddy comedy with Hanks as Gust Avrakotos, an outspoken covert operative.
Nichols pulled no punches with his violently satirical version of Joseph Heller’s Catch 22, but the comparatively kinder humour of Charlie Wilson’s War disguises a narrow, ethnocentric attitude to foreign policy. Charlie is portrayed as a flawed All-American hero who personally defeated communism in his spare time, and the rise of global terrorism is explained away in a throwaway line bemoaning the ‘crazies’ who came afterwards. Such casual generalisations reveal Nichols’ lightweight comedy drama as disguising an arrogantly racist and superior view of international politics as a sandpit for the US to muck around in.
General release, from Fri 11 Jan.