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Saturday, 9 February 2008

Charlie Wilson's War

God forbid that every film should follow the Hollywood three-act plot structure, but in this case a decent third act probably wouldn’t have hurt. The film starts out interestingly enough in 1980, with Texas Democrat Senator Charlie Wilson (Tom Hanks) learning about the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan while sitting in a Vegas hot-tub surrounded by showgirls. The all-true tale that follows is slickly told, with playboy Wilson teaming up with a rich right-wing socialite (Julia Roberts) and a gruff CIA agent (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) to get anti-helicopter missiles to the Afghani resistance.

Director Mike Nichols (Closer) clearly relishes the more farcical aspects of his tale (the war scenes are less impressive), while the trio of leads all have fun with their larger-than-life roles. But the story never goes anywhere: Wilson wants to help the Afghans, he helps the Afghans, then it’s all over, bar one brief scene pointing out that once the war was over no-one wanted to help Wilson save the gun-toting and radicalised Afghans from themselves. That moment is the entire point of making this film today. Skimming over it does this otherwise interesting story no favours.

Anthony Morris
(This review first appeared in The Big Issue, 28 Jan)

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