Three things I liked about Charlie Wilson's War
- The performances - Hanks, Roberts, and especially Hoffman are all great here, giving generous performances that come close to winking but never do. That Tom Hanks, in particular, is perfectly suited to deliver Aaron Sorkin dialogue is in retrospect pretty obvious.
- The Sorkin script - the dialogue is as witty and sharp as ever, while not calling attention to itself in the way that his dialogue sometimes can. Very nicely modulated. I did laugh at the obligatory "Character A says something isn't true," Character B asks if it is," "Character A says it is" exchange.
- The story - what I'm sure is a much more complicated story is told clearly, economically, and without any fat. I'm sure the book has about ten times the detail and happenstance, but for a film, this streamlined version works.
Three things I did not like about Charlie Wilson's War
- The overall effect - as much as I liked the pieces, they didn't add up to what they wanted to. That is, the whole point of the movie is to give the viewer a swelling sense of joy when we see the Afghans win, when we see Wilson and his friends' efforts win out. And it just wasn't there - I didn't get that swelling sense of emotion I get at the end of Schindler's List, for example. And I'm not sure why. As I said, the pieces are there. But they don't add up the right way.
- The portrayal of Wilson. His rogueish, caddish qualities were there, but in a perfunctory kind of way. He came across as too much of a Sorkin hero, and not as flawed as the screenplay seemed to think he was.
- The framing device. The film opens with Wilson receiving an honor from the military, and then flashes back to tell the story. It didn't really add anything.