Charlie Wilson's War

There's a great story here. If you don't know Charlie Wilson, he was the Democratic Texas congressman — with a rep as a boozing horn dog — who finagled covert financial support so the Afghan mujahideen could stick it to the Russians during the 1980s. The late George Crile, of 60 Minutes, wrote a fascinating book about Charlie in 2003. Now Hollywood steps in. That's Tom Hanks playing Charlie and lending the role his considerable charm and sly wit, though he doesn't seem that into the lechery. That's Julia Roberts, all blond and steel-magnolia-ish as Joanne Herring, the Houston socialite on Charlie's side in and out of bed. Director Mike Nichols, who last prowled the D.C. scene in Primary Colors, is a master at putting zing in the zingers that come courtesy of screenwriter Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing). But somehow a chunk of history has been boiled down to a ninety-seven-minute movie that skims when you want it to skewer. The only exception comes when Philip Seymour Hoffman pops up as rogue CIA op Gust Avrakotos and ts making comic hay of the way things work on the Beltway. Rude, crude and hilarious, whether he's hitting on Joanne or brokering the sale of Soviet weapons through Israel and Islamic Pakistan, Hoffman is the film's sparking live wire. This is certainly the most dynamic of the war films that have been choking and dying at the multiplex. But the satiric energy undercuts a deeper provocation, namely that Charlie's efforts inadvertently helped to equip what would become Al Qaeda. "We fucked up the endgame" is the way Charlie put it. You might say the same for the movie.

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