Friday, 25 January 2008

The Good, The Bad and the Cinematic: Charlie Wilson's War

I'm going to be honest here, and it's going to hurt me, or at least any reputation of me that you have built up in your head. I can't stand Julia Roberts. I really, honestly, utterly can't see what everyone sees in her. That smile? It comes straight from the world of Wallace and Gromit. Except, being a non-fictional human, it clearly doesn't, and is therefore creepy. Her acting? It isn't bad, I'm not going to claim that, really, I wouldn't dare. But it isn't the best acting in the world, is it? If we're all being friends here, and we're all honest, and, well. Yeah. Meh.

I struggle with Tom Hanks a little, too, if I'm honest. With the exception of Gump, of course. And I haven't seen Philedelphia - I'm reasonably confident I'd love it. But otherwise, I don't know, he's never seemed to be enjoying himself in his films.

In this sense, Charlie Wilson's War was a pleasent surprise. Tom Hanks was truly wonderful, a little bit chirpier than normal, a whole lot more convincing and a whole lot more convinced. As Charlie Wilson Hanks was fantastic, and with that off of my mind, the whole film glided a lot easier. A slight comedy based on a true political story was never going to be easy to pull off in any area. It would either fail to remain interesting throughout, or fail to be funny, at all. It could have failed on both fronts, but somehow Mike Nicholls (a sporadic success over the past forty years or so now) manages to hit double bonus points on each side of things. Partly this is down to a fantastic supporting cast - Philip Seymour Hoffman fully deserves his Academy Award nomination (though having now seen No Country For Old Men - more on that soon - I can't offer my support for the win) as 'loose-cannon' CIA agent Gust Avrakotos. I put the 'loose-cannon' part in inverted commas because although he is most certainly a loose-cannon relative to the world in which we live, he is certainly no Harry Callaghan or John McClane. That is, in this case, I good thing.

Amy Adams, who took the lead in Enchanted, is overshadowed on the 'Big Name' front quite heavily, thanks to the threefold combination of Hanks, Roberts and Hoffman, but this by no means allows her to glide along in their path. Actually, it probably could have meant that, but to her credit Adams works hard to stand out in a film of standouts, and there is a reason why in the end credits she is billed second only to Hanks. A nomination is deserved, but unfortunately overseen.

Even Roberts shines here as Joanne Herring, and not just because a well-placed pool-side scene proves it is only her face that distracts from things. She is a dense character, perhaps not entirely opened up to full potential by Roberts. Regardless, it is solely down to the superb acting and dedicated direction that this film works. It drags on occasion, and despite Nicholls' best attempts at times there are less than necessary moments that serve only to prolong a film that had more than enough to fill its time with as it was. It is a fast paced political drama, though, and that is not a phrase uttered often.


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