Mike Nichols | 2007 | 97 min | USA
Charlie Wilson's War reaffirms my long held belief that Tom Hanks should never have stopped doing comedies, because the only films of his that are worth a damn are the funny ones. This film has funny moments, but there are too few of them to rescue it from sweeping-melodrama-dreariness.
Don't get me wrong, there is some witty banter in this, a few laugh out loud moments, and Hanks and Philip Seymour Hoffman have some magical creepy-fat-guy scenes in which their chemistry actually verges on sexy, but ultimately it's a tepid based-on-real-events morality play about how the US saved but ultimately screwed Afghanistan in the '80s, setting the stage for their own political woes of the '00s. Is the idea that the US had something to do with fucking Afghanistan up the ass before the events of September 11 still a genuine surprise to people? Are these milquetoast revelations supposed to be provocative? Really Aaron Sorkin? Julia Roberts looks terrifying as the pinched, aging debutante who spurs Charlie to action, but that's neither here nor there.
In all honesty, I've only ever truly loved one Mike Nichols film - Working Girl, which managed to make the tedious ladder of (vague and nebulous) 'business' seem sort of exciting to climb. Pre-plastic-surgery Melanie Griffith is a dream (especially in that black + diamond off the shoulder frock), Harrison Ford is at his mid-career sexiest and Joan Cusack is such a goddamn firecracker as the sassy Cyn that I've still got bits of her dialogue memorized nearly 20 years after I first saw it.
What I'm trying to say is, with the notable exception of Hoffman, who shines in everything so brightly it's almost boring to mention it, this film is no Working Girl. The real Charlie Wilson would have been considerably more fun to spend 97 minutes with.