Politics and war just never seem to go away, do they? No matter what phase ends and which one begins, chatter always seems to linger making my DVD pick this week all the more meaningful. Because lets face it, when it comes to any film surrounding these two dynamic topics, being short on words is not an option. And while this week’s release of “Larry Crowne” may not fulfill that same notion, it stars Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts, the same two stars in “Charlie Wilson’s War,” a DVD that you can’t help but appreciate, as its “not so serious” tone drives it, not its content.
“Charlie Wilson’s War” is a story loosely based on the life of, you guessed it, Charlie Wilson (Tom Hanks), a Texas congressman who helped put an end to a war between the Soviet Union and Afghanistan back in the 80s. But, make no mistake about it; this story is not your typical “war” story with a lot of action. In fact, it’s the exact opposite, focusing more on Wilson and his cohorts who helped him enable Afghanistan’s own rebels, also called mujahedeen, to fight off the Russians and end the war. Helping Wilson along the way were exuberant anti-communist Joanne Herring (Julia Roberts), a powerful Texas woman who had the knack for talking high US officials into things and CIA Agent Gust Avrakotos (Philip Seymour Hoffman), who no matter what the cost wanted his country to win in whatever way possible, no matter what the cost might be. That cost raised by the unlikely trio was roughly $1 billion, an astronomical amount back in the 80s and one no one really knew about until it was all over resulting in a conclusion that isn’t exactly what it appears to be at first.
What can you say about a cast including icons like Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts? I would say it’s one that can’t go wrong and that would be true in this case as both Hanks and Roberts were brilliant in their individual roles. Possibly his best role since “Saving Private Ryan,” Hanks shines as Charlie Wilson, having fun with the character and bringing in all that inexcusable cockiness that made Wilson’s name a historical one. Then there was Julia Roberts, who was able to make this role work with everything but her looks. Sure, the bikini she featured is one to remember, but her looks only benefit from her performance and delivery of lines which got better the deeper this story went, making you wonder why we don’t see her more in stories like this. But, I guess if we did, there wouldn’t be much to look forward to when she did pop back on the map, like in this weeks “Larry Crowne.” I’ll be honest, though, when I first saw this, I wasn’t sure if she and Hanks would mesh, but apparently director Mike Nichols knew something we didn’t as they acted like they had been doing films together for years. Of course in saying all that, the true sleeper performance here was Philip Seymour Hoffman, who just has a way of making you laugh when you don’t want to. And it’s not as if he’s trying to, but his delivery and timing is so uncanny that I find myself enjoying his character more than others. He helped keep this film grounded with his performance as CIA agent Avrakotos, which in itself is a name worth saying a few times over.
It’s hard not to give all the credit to director Mike Nichols for this one, who quietly is one remarkable director and one many still have never heard of. But, Nichols had some help, as screenwriter Aaron Sorkin created some truly remarkable dialogue for a film within this genre. And the cast chewed it up and made it work to perfection, as each character seemed to flow right into one another, making you think it was almost too good to be true. But, the fact is, it wasn’t because Sorkin made sure Nichols could then use his talent behind the camera to make all the drama and humor from the script reach its potential. Some might say how hard can it be to direct a cast with the likes of this one, but even these icons need guidance and Nichols has the respect to give it and get the best from his talent in whatever project he is behind.
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