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Friday, January 23, 2009

CHARLIE WILSON’S WAR (2007)

This spry political parable about the eponymous hard-partying Texas Congressman who got Afghanistan the funds & weapons needed to fight the Russians in the ‘80s, is just the sort of sophisticated, yet ultimately shallow thinking-person’s entertainment that’s perfect for helmer Mike Nichols. His previous pass at D.C. politics, PRIMARY COLORS/’98, was 40 minutes longer and took on just the sort of misplaced seriousness scripter Aaron Sorkin sidesteps here. They're both having too much fun detailing the complications & odd-couple partnerships in Wilson’s unlikely international network. (A brief moralistic coda let’s too many players off the hook and is best ignored.) Tom Hanks has recently been working out his characterizations thru homage and he makes the obvious choice to go all Larry Hagman here, to good effect. (Hagman himself, that is the real Larry Hagman, gave a knock-out perf in PRIMARY COLORS.) Julia Roberts gets a mighty pay check and mighty billing for little screen time, but Philip Seymour Hoffman gives good weight, as always, and surely dumbfounds anyone who’s just seen his Truman Capote. And, as the President of Afghanistan, Om Puri is his typically sublime self.

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