Next up in the Politic-a-thon is another film from one of my favourite script writers working today, Aaron Sorkin. This time though, instead of taking place in the West Wing, this goes into Congress and is the first film based on a real life person that Sorkin has written and, whilst I think it’s the weakest of Sorkin’s films, it is still a great film.
The plot concerns Charlie Wilson, a drug taking, partying Congressman that fills his office with beautiful women, basically the stereotype of Congressmen. However, he is also a highly influential figure on Defence sub-committees and, when he finds out about the full extent of what the Soviet soldiers were doing when they invaded Afghanistan, he and a small group of CIA agents set about trying to provide weapons to the Afghan resistance fighters to repel the Soviets. Since this is an Aaron Sorkin script, along with the more serious elements of the stuff in Afghanistan, there are a lot of really funny moments in the film, mainly the insults delivered by CIA agent Gust Avrakotos, along with when the film focuses on the stuff Wilson does that has led to him being investigated by Rudy Guliani. The script also shows how someone like Wilson could get heavily invested in the plight of Afghanistan, which also helps to show the need for politicians to see what is going on in order to understand the issues. If there is a problem with the plot, it’s at the end as I think there could have been a bit more focus on the aftermath of what Wilson did. Following the Soviet invasion, the Taliban took over key regions of Afghanistan which led to a severe decline in the human rights for the people of Afghanistan, along with the educational prospects. The film does address this to some extent, saying that there was a need to build schools and improve the infrastructure of Afghanistan, along with showing the complete lack of care that other politicians had about the situation. It feels like another film could have been made about the aftermath of the film and how Wilson reacts to the impact that his decisions have made in the long term, especially in the aftermath of 9/11.
The best way for Aaron Sorkin scripts to work comes when great actors to deliver the dialogue and in the case of Charlie Wilson’s War, this happens in spades. Tom Hanks gives off this great level of charm as Wilson, making you understand why he became such an important member of several committees whilst also having the ability to show how someone like Wilson would act the way he does with Afghanistan. His best work though comes through his facial expressions, mainly his one at the end of the film, after he cannot get any money to help build schools in Afghanistan, showing his fear over what will happen to Afghanistan if attempts are not made to repair the infrastructure and provide education, showing that his actions probably caused more damage in the long run. In terms of the comedic elements of Sorkin’s script, this is served by Phillip Seymour Hoffman. All of the best lines in the film go to him and I laughed out loud at many of the things he said, it also helps that his character is introduced delivering the best insult that Sorkin has ever written. Julia Roberts gives a good performance but out of the main cast members, she is the weak link. Of the supporting players, Amy Adams is best as Wilson’s aid, showing this great sense of loyalty to Wilson and there is some good work from Ned Beatty, Om Puri, Ken Stott, Denis O’Hare and Emily Blunt.
Overall, out of all of Sorkin’s films, Charlie Wilson’s War is his weakest, but weaker Aaron Sorkin is still excellent. Whilst the aftermath could have seen a bit more focus, the work Charlie Wilson did is still really interesting to see and, when mixed with his wild persona, is very compelling to watch, aided by top performances from Tom Hanks and Phillip Seymour Hoffman.
My Rating: 4/5