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Charlie Wilson's War

Release Date: 
Star Rating: 
8 out of 10
We confess we had never heard of this rather obscure Texas congressman or his "war," but after seeing his sensationally entertaining story, you will want to stand up and cheer for Charlie Wilson's War, a smart, wickedly funny, and absolutely irresistible true tale about a guy who dared to make a difference. In the Reagan-era '80s, Charlie Wilson (Tom Hanks employing a nice southern drawl) was the kind of lazy congressman that loved to party, drink, and have sex in hot tubs, consistently getting reelected just by proving he could get favors done for his district. Along comes socialite and tease Joanne Herring (a blonde and bewigged Julia Roberts), who beds him and then enlists him to carry out her own right-wing, pie-in-the-sky plan to get the invading Soviet army out of Afghanistan. Thus begins C.W.'s amazing covert war with a ragtag Afghan battalion, one he wages under the noses of the administration, with the help of a somewhat low-level CIA operative (Philip Seymour Hoffman) who knows where all the bodies are buried and can make things happen. Since Charlie also happens to be on an important defense subcommittee, he is able to call in a lot of chits from fellow lawmakers and raise the budget for these top-secret activities from about $5 million to an eventual sum nearing $1 billion. Although on the surface this all appears to be the stuff of great drama, director Mike Nichols and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin (creator of The West Wing) both certainly know their way around satire, and skillfully turn this into sly, sophisticated, and ironic comedy. Sorkin's dazzling dialogue snaps, crackles, and pops like no other movie around. Hanks is perfection in a role he seems born to play, and Hoffman again steals every scene he's in. Get another Oscar speech ready, Phil.