Communism’s collapse has been attributed to many factors. Apparently, the real straw that broke the commissars’ backs can be traced to a Las Vegas hot-tub party. That’s where Texas congressman Charlie Wilson (Hanks), surrounded by busty strippers doing blow, happened to catch Dan Rather interviewing Afghan mujahideen on TV and decided that, dammit, these anti-Soviet freedom fighters need a-fundin’! So, along with a sassy society matron (Roberts) and a smarmy CIA covert-ops expert (Hoffman), the hedonistic Dixiecrat managed to slip (on the sly) millions of tax dollars and a slew of rocket launchers to the country’s guerrillas. The rest is history; see what just one Lone Star politician with friends in high places can accomplish?
Unfortunately, we do, in more ways than one. Mike Nichols’s irony-saturated comedy assumes audiences can connect the dots: Everybody knows exactly how this victory comes back to bite us in the collective ass decades later. And like its booze-and-broads–loving hero, Charlie Wilson’s War coasts by on a surplus of charm, especially once the cast starts digging into screenwriter Aaron Sorkin’s whip-crack repartee. Hanks and Roberts have fun harnessing their screen personas to these juicy roles; Hoffman’s feverish ranting is yet another glowing testament to his skills at playing charismatic a-holes. None of which saves the film from being guilty of preaching to the choir. Just because Wilson’s intentions were good didn’t stop him from screwing things up—and just because a politically savvy satire has an eloquent tongue in its cheek doesn’t mean the message won’t seem painfully obvious.
Cast and crew
Philip Seymour Hoffman