Charlie Wilson's War - Cinema Review

Phillip Seymour Hoffman's stinging wit in this film will be matched, in level, only by the frustration viewers will feel when the end credits role.

The main conceit (we track congressman Charlie Wilson as he attempts to supply enough arms to Afghan resistance fighters in order to facilitate them in cleaning the Soviets out of Afghanistan)is well executed and humorously portrayed with Hanks a willing and skillful recipient of Hoffman's much publicised show stealing antics as disgruntled C.I.A agent Gust Avrakotos (the scene in Wilson's office is the highlight).

However, it is not just Hoffman who steals the show, nor is it the under-developed, under-used, under-acting Julia Roberts, playing socialite Joanne Herring whose existence in this piece is paid nothing more and, quite possibly, considerably less than lip-service. Amy Adams however, as Wilson's nagging yet affectionate assistant is fantastic despite being given lines which lack both depth and gumption. Adams manages to change a character apparently only included to point out to the audience whether Wilson is currently acting debauched or as the peak of morality into a three dimensional figure who lights every scene and provides Hank's character with the only opponent he can never overcome.

Under-developed characters are not, however, this films main weakness. Whilst it does an admirable job in relating to us the tale of Wilson's most famous endeavour the man himself is sadly lost behind the jokes and the guns, the girls and the bathtubs. Wilson is fascinating; a drunk by day and night whose greatest achievement in congress was 'getting himself re-elected six times', he suddenly turns into moral crusader for the oppressed Afghans at the flick of a switch. Baleful shots towards the films conclusion hint that Wilson is not only upset about the outcome but genuinely hurt and depressed yet we are never told how he ended up in this state or what happened to him after his endeavours into Afghanistan. Whether Nichols decided to make this decision due to the fact that the real-life Wilson is very much alive (and indeed attended the premiere) is by-the-by as he sacrifices character integrity for plot manoeuvrability, only to have what little there is left of his character undermine everything.

An enjoyable film with decent performances from most of its many characters. Unfortunately however, this does not include the ubiquitous Charlie Wilson.

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