Combustible Celluloid
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With: Tom Hanks, Amy Adams, Julia Roberts, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Terry Bozeman, Brian Markinson, Jud Tylor, Hilary Angelo, Cyia Batten, Kirby Mitchell, Ed Regine, Daniel Eric Gold, Emily Blunt, Peter Gerety, Wynn Everett, Rachel Nichols
Written by: Aaron Sorkin, based on a book by George Crile
Directed by: Mike Nichols
MPAA Rating: R for strong language, nudity/sexual content and some drug use
Running Time: 97
Date: 12/10/2007

Charlie Wilson's War (2007)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Up in Arms

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Based on a true story, Mike Nichols' new movie wants to be a funny, yet cautionary political satire but winds up as a collection of wasted resources. Texas congressman Charlie Wilson (Tom Hanks) becomes interested in the war between the Soviets and Afghanistan (which raged from 1979 to 1989) and begins a covert operation to help support the Afghanis. A Texas millionaire, Joanne Herring (Julia Roberts) gets involved, as does a renegade CIA man, Gust Avrakotos (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Nichols peppers the film with sex, beautiful women, booze and smoking, in a desperate effort to make it seem subversive and carefree, but it's all too carefully calculated. Written by Aaron Sorkin, the film plays with scene after scene of talk, talk, talk, while Nichols makes sure the actors are sitting in really interesting rooms. Indeed, the entire story is passed back and forth through the mouths of characters, rather than anything visual, and the key scene, in which the Americans visit the Afghani refugee camp nearly blows the whole deal; it looks like a Hollywood backlot with well-fed extras dressed in robes. After years in the business, Nichols still has a reputation for being "good with actors," though he completely squanders the talented Amy Adams in her role as Wilson's assistant, trailing him around and reading reports to him. Hanks and Roberts don't do anything special, and they have no real chemistry. Their well-maintained star images don't seem to mesh. Only Hoffman manages to make a silk purse out of this sow's ear, as he usually does, by blustering through his line readings with a raw energy the rest of the film sorely lacks.

DVD Details: Universal's DVD comes with a "making of" featurette and a profile of the real Charlie Wilson. Charlie Wilson's War

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