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RUNNING TIME: 102 min
The Making of Charlie Wilson’s War featurette
Who is Charlie Wilson? featurette
A Texas Democrat uses his muscle as a bit congressional player to help win the Cold War.
Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, Ned Beatty, Emily Blunt and Om Puri
Universal presents: I WAS A TEENAGE WILL ARNETT
Charlie Wilson’s War is a fascinating look at the world of political back-door dealings. Showing a sense of wit unseen in a Nichols film for the last twenty years, the director finds a sense of ease with the film. I’m not sure how much of that you can chalk up to Aaron Sorkin, but it works well. There’s still an equal sense of weakness in both creators’ styles. You get a lot of the overcooked dialogue scenes that plague much of Sorkin’s work and you get the awkward bridge into the third act that has come to dominate Nichols’ recent work.
Charlie Wilson’s War takes us back to a simpler time. Reagan was a heartbeat from the presidency and the powers that be were getting ready to kick Carter out in his ass. When Congressman Charlie Wilson takes note of a Dan Rather report on the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan, he takes notice. Wilson uses Houston Right-Wing socialite Joanne Herring’s pull to help begin a fund-raising campaign for the brave Afghani fighters. This raises the attention of fringe CIA agent Gust Avrakatos, he decides to work with Charlie Wilson to fund a Black-Ops mission to help repel the Soviet Invasion.
Hoffman always liked to look at the bottom of the screen for direction.
Tom Hanks does something in this film that I haven’t seen him do in awhile. He blended well into a larger cast, while managing to keep his leading charms in the forefront. A lot of attention has been paid to Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Oscar-nominated turn as Gust Avrakatos. Gust and Charlie’s back and forth exchanges are the foundation upon which the film is formed. It’s refreshing to see two actors click onscreen and know how to read their cues. That’s not to downplay the work from Amy Adams, Om Puri or Julia Roberts. Everyone does their best, but they don’t really synch with the material.
The major failure of the film is that it isn’t the award-bait that people made it out to be. It’s that there was so much potential in the story that the creators failed to capitalize upon. You get this wonderful build out of the decadence that was the era with the promise of a well-developed explanation for the end of the Cold War. What happens is this lackadaisical skip through any heavy issues and into a sanctimonious justification for Wilson’s actions. We get a cut back to the opening and a lackluster quote to explain away any real developments of what actually happened to Afghanistan post-Soviet defeat.
Peter Petraeus: The Early Years
It’s been six months since the film arrived in theaters and crapped the bed. Audiences don’t really care for incomplete stories or tales that ask them to take a look at the world in which they live. Sure, you’ve got a decent minority that actually uses their brains to actively process what they’ve seen. But, films like this kind of defeat the point. If you can tell an interesting narrative, but don’t deliver on the floor show…you’ve fucking lost the crowd. Dropping the ball like that is dangerous and threatens to push people off related tales no matter if they’re crafted better than this failed attempt.
Charlie Wilson‘s War comes to DVD with minimal special features. But, the featurettes included are well-made and show off the various aspects of the production. We get a standard look at the 2nd District Congressman Charlie Wilson (TX – D) and where he originated. Then, we get a rather informative look at the nature of the secret funding of the Afghani resistance to the Soviet Invasion. There isn’t anything in-depth to be found, but it’s great surface material to get viewers interested in learning more.
You’ll forgive Bonfire of the Vanities, won’t you? I asked you question, Rubber Duckie! Don’t fucking look at me like that. I’ve got back-to-back Oscars, bitch. You know who else did that? Spencer Tracy. That’s right, you rubber bitch. I think I just launched a brown torpedo.
The A/V Quality is pretty impressive. I’m still waiting for Universal to release this film on Blu-Ray, as Nichols worked well with cinematographer Stephen Goldblatt to create an impressive visual palette. The transfer is nearly spotless and the Dolby Digital 5.1 track is beautiful. You wouldn’t expect a high-profile drama to sound or look this good. But, here we are.
In the end, Charlie Wilson’s War was an interesting movie that didn’t quite connect the way it should have. But, an interesting failure is still a wonderful story to watch. Nichols might be able to revisit the film in a decade and show film fans a new side to Charlie Wilson that we haven’t seen. But, that doesn’t seem to be his style. I guess that we should just enjoy the film for what it was.
Houston might salute President Zia, but they’ll want to cram their hand up his ass and use him as a puppet eventually.