Review: Charlie Wilson's War

DVD of the week: Charlie Wilson's War

Charlie Wilson's War, 2007, 15, Universal £19.99

'The US government has lost its credibility,' quipped Tom Hanks in The Simpsons Movie, 'so it's borrowing some of mine'. Yup, even when playing a booze-and-skirt chasing politician, Tom still comes off as one of the good guys, a latterday Jimmy Stewart. In Charlie Wilson's War, he's the brash titular Texan congressman who chooses interns by their bra-size ('Charlie says you can teach 'em to type, but you can't teach 'em to grow tits...') and funds covert American activities in Soviet-occupied Afghanistan. Spurred on by scary/sexy Houston socialite Joanne Herring (Julia Roberts, in tight-faced fiery dragon mode) and CIA agent Gust Avrakotos (a typically rancid Philip Seymour Hoffman) Wilson persuades Congress to pay millions for rockets and guns to bring down Soviet helicopters. In the process, they arm the mujahideen but overlook reconstruction, thereby fostering modern terrorism - but that's another story, at least as far as this flippantly upbeat movie is concerned.

Few films leave you wanting more, but Mike Nichols's wafer-thin 'political comedy' positively demands another act examining this dreadful legacy. Instead, we get a slyly regretful look from Hanks as he receives his CIA medal, followed by a fleeting final quote from Wilson about having 'fucked up the endgame'. Other than that, it's fun fun fun all the way as Hanks swigs and carouses his way in and out of hot tubs and bedsheets, surrounded by adoring office 'jailbait', and badgered by Hoffman's splendidly belligerent presence.

West Wing linchpin Aaron Sorkin does his usual gliberal thing with George Crile's source book, but there's none of the bite of Nichols' Primary Colors which remains a far more insightful portrait of American politics. As for Hanks, he could play Hannibal Lecter as lovably avuncular - how long before he runs for political office?


Mark Kermode

The GuardianTramp

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