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Charlie Wilson’s War a.k.a. “La Guerre selon Charlie Wilson,” “Jogos do Poder,” “Der Krieg des Charlie Wilson”

MPAA Rating: R-Rating (MPAA) for strong language, nudity/sexual content and some drug use

Reviewed by: Jonathan Rodriguez

Very Offensive
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Drama, Biography, War, History, Adaptation
1 hr. 37 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
December 25, 2007 (wide)
Copyright, Universal Pictures Copyright, Universal Pictures Copyright, Universal Pictures
Copyright, Universal Pictures Copyright, Universal Pictures Copyright, Universal Pictures Copyright, Universal Pictures Copyright, Universal Pictures Copyright, Universal Pictures
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Featuring: Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, Om Puri, Jud Taylor, Shiri Appleby, Spencer Garrett
Director: Mike Nichols
Producer: Celia D. Costas, Tom Hanks, Gary Goetzman
Distributor: Universal Pictures

“A stiff drink. A little mascara. A lot of nerve. Who said they couldn’t bring down the Soviet empire. Based on a true story. You think we could make all this up?”

Veteran director Mike Nichols (“The Graduate,” “The Birdcage,” and “Closer”) teams up with “The West Wing” scribe Aaron Sorkin to bring us “Charlie Wilson’s War”, the true story of a boozing, womanizing congressman who helped bring down the Soviet Empire during the Cold War. America’s everyman Tom Hanks plays Charlie Wilson, in the type of frat-boy role we haven’t seen him take in a very long time. We first find Wilson partying naked in a hot tub in Vegas with Playboy models, but obsessing over a news report he sees airing on the TV over the hot tub. It is a piece on Afghanistan’s struggle to resist the advance of the Soviets. Wilson is intrigued, and, upon returning to Washington, meets with fellow committee members to double the amount of money used to aid the Afghans, bringing it to a total of 10 million dollars.

To Wilson, this seems like enough, but during a romantic interlude, he is interrupted by a call from Joanne Herring (Julia Roberts), an influential, born-again Texas socialite who has a vested interest in the Afghans struggle. She scoffs at the small sum, and arranges for Wilson to be flown to the Middle East to see first-hand the atrocities being committed by the Soviets. Wilson is sobered by meeting with the victims, including a few children whose limbs were blown off by land mines made to look like toys and candy wrappers. Wilson returns to Washington with the sole desire to get the Afghans all the money they need to save their country, and enlists the help of crude CIA agent Gus Avrakotos (Phillip Seymour Hoffman).

“Charlie Wilson’s War” certainly isn’t your typical “war” movie; in fact, most of the film is simply various people talking about what is happening, or what will be done to fix things. This isn’t a bad thing, but for people looking for any real action, you will be looking in the wrong place if you are looking here.

Christians interested in seeing this film should be cautious regarding the film’s content. Honestly, the first ten minutes are the worst parts, as we get both male and female nudity, language, drug use, and other sexual/sensual content. The content isn’t needed, as it is not entirely relevant to the story, other than to establish the fact that Charlie Wilson is a man of questionable ethics and morals. I wouldn’t normally say this about a movie, but viewers could miss the first 10-15 minutes and not miss any vital parts of the movie, and will save themselves from seeing and hearing things they don’t want to be exposed to. The rest of the film is much tamer in comparison, but does contain some fairly strong language (mostly from Hoffman’s character) and some sensually attired women. Charlie Wilson certainly isn’t a role model himself, and he makes light of his shortcomings. And, Julia Roberts’s character is a professing Christian, but seems to make a habit of sleeping with men so she can get them to do what she wants later.

“Charlie Wilson’s War” starts out slowly, with names and events being thrown around during conversations that may cause some viewers to grow restless. But, as Charlie visits the victims, and begins his plan to equip the Afghans, the film moves along at a crisp pace, with smart dialogue and fantastic acting. Hanks is perfect in this role, and frankly hasn’t been this good in quite some time. Julia Roberts is good in her role, although this role could have gone to someone else and would have been nearly as good. Hoffman is good as always, playing his usual grumpy, crude character.

This film isn’t about the war so much as it is about the man who helped put a stop to it. Throughout the film, characters make various interesting, thoughtful remarks on world politics, and observations on the way things get done in Washington. The film is good up until the last 15 minutes, when it becomes great. It is no secret that the United States helped supply the Afghans with the weapons to fight the Soviets, only to have the Taliban use the same weapons, and military training against the Americans years later. The film makes no direct references to the Taliban, Bin Laden, or September 11th, but Hoffman’s character tells Charlie a fable of a Zen master near the end of the film that will surely give you chills; listen for the sound effect in the background during this scene.

This film isn’t for everyone, and it certainly isn’t for children. But, adults interested in world politics and in seeing how one man shaped our history today, should skip the first 15 minutes, then see “Charlie Wilson’s War”.

Violence: Mild / Profanity: Extreme / Sex/Nudity: Heavy

Viewer Comments
Comments below:
Positive—This is a complicated movie to comment upon. Most of us are enamored with Tom Hanks who always gives such great performances. The cast is stellar, with the marvelous talents of Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, Ned Beatty, Emily Blunt, plus Julia Roberts. The story is definitely noteworthy. We see a politician try to right the wrongs going on in Soviet-ridden Afghanistan in the 1980s, and he succeeds through hard work and skillful maneuvering and manipulation. But the movie does whitewash the huge amount of deplorable sexual and other immorality by a number of individuals. It is discouraging to think that people in high places are capable of such behavior. It makes me wonder if truly decent people even have a chance in an environment that seems to tolerate blatant promiscuity, adultery, use of drugs, and less than forthright political activity. I think this movie is worth seeing for the the historical content and the cinematic artistry. It is unfortunate that Charlie Wilson did stoop to reprobate personal behavior while serving the public, and that the producers of the movie did not spare us some of the details.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4½
Positive—Engaging drama. Fine acting, and intelligent and witty writing make this film one of the more interesting of the year. If you’re wondering about content, be aware that there is a hot tub scene with nudity at the beginning and language throughout. No violence however. The characters in this film seem to do good in spite of themselves. In fact, the main character Charlie Wilson reminds me a little of Oscar Schindler, where a man with some flawed moral values manages to make an extraordinary difference in the lives of many people. I think the nudity at the beginning was unnecessary, but the story overall is quite worthwhile. Unlike a number of other movies this year, “Charlie Wilson’s War” never descends into dark, violent, dysfunctional tragedy.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
Todd Adams, age 40
Positive—I think that some reviewers on this site are being a bit harsh on this film. It is about a man who was morally flawed. Not everyone can lead a perfect life. However, the story is relevant to today as much as it ever was. The performances are excellent, and the direction is tight. What more could you ask for? Yes, it’s R-rated, and if that offends you, just don’t go. …
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
Adam Renkovish, age 25
Positive—We can forgive Charlie Wilson for selling Stinger missiles to Osama bin Laden to shoot down Russian helicopters—but profanity, cocaine, fornication, and hot tubs full of topless women? Shame!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 5
Huck Carnegie, age 40
Positive—Good movie that shows the truth about politics. I recommend it. I am sure that for some it will be eye opening. Only Theocracy works!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
Kris, age 35, Serbia
Positive—This is a powerful and impressive film, with exceptional acting all around. I think we all know the story about the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, but we have never heard all the gritty details. In this film, we learn about Rep. Charles Wilson and his efforts to support a covert war, fought not by the United States military, but by the Afghan militia. We see the billions of dollars funneled into Afghanistan and the success faced in pushing the invaders out. This ultimately brought about the end of the Cold War, which is how the film is bookended, with Wilson earning an award for his efforts in that. Towards the end, we also learn about the aftermath of the efforts in Afghanistan, when Wilson is told about an unfriendly group moving into Kandahar and also about Wilson’s efforts to help the Afghani people rebuild. The film ends with a rather offensive quote from Wilson. While it contains an offensive word, I think this really echoes the sentiment about how the United States conducts wars. The aftermath of Wilson’s success in Afghanistan was the rise of the Taliban and Osama bin Laden. One only wonders what would have happened had Wilson been able to have his way and helped the refugees and those who trusted us the most. All in all, a great film. Morally, there are some things that I find offensive, but compared to others in the genre and given the context, I put an Average moral rating. I would much rather see an accurate film, with offensive material, than a film made less accurate through sugarcoating.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
Brian, age 33
Negative—I found this movie to be extremely offensive both in nudity, sexual promiscuity and gutter language. I’ve always admired Tom Hanks and many of the family-oriented movies which he has acted, directed and produced, but I was truly taken back by his acting and use of language in this movie. While I’m sure he was trying to portray Charlie Wilson as accurately as possible, I believe he could have done so without being so explicit. Gentlemen, respect your wife and any other woman, and do not take them or go yourself to see this movie. We, as Christians, are in real trouble if we behave in the way these people do and call ourselves Christians, as they have done so in this movie! One cannot say “I love Jesus” as Charlie Wilson does, and then sleep with every woman that walks into his congressional office. Texas (my state) should be ashamed to call this man a native son! This movie is not worth the money you would spend to view it.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3
SGO, age 61
Movie Critics
…it’s played with the rat-a-tat rhythms of a screwball comedy. Nichols aims both high and low, careering from satire to sentiment, sex comedy to hagiography, sitcom to situation paper, not always coherently. …
David Ansen, Newsweek
…it gets a justified R rating. Today, filmmakers don’t even try to imply hedonism. We have to see it in graphic detail. And if you are disturbed by crude, obscene and profane language, well, you might want to skip this one. …
Phil Boatwright, Preview Family Movie and TV Review
…A sharp political satire… Viewers of nearly all political stripes can get behind Charlie Wilson of Texas' 2nd District, who solves problems with the common sense and sweet talking absent from today’s Beltway scene. …
Kirk Honeycutt, The Hollywood Reporter
…an impressive hit… moves quickly and is entirely entertaining. … impressive performances…
Garrett Conti, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
…an apolitical comedy about politics. Or at least a naïve one, since those weapons likely eventually made their way into the hands of Al Qaeda. … It’s hard to leave ‘Charlie Wilson’s War’ without feeling queasy…
Wesley Morris, Boston Globe
…a smart, sophisticated entertainment for grownups… snappy, amusing and ruefully ironic…
Todd McCarthy, Variety