Mike Nichols has brought us some truly rewarding films. The Graduate is arguably one of the greatest films to come from his work, benefitting greatly from a suitably cast Dustin Hoffman. It’s unfortunate then that the final film he brought us in his 50-year career as a director is little more than a dud piece. Charlie Wilson’s War is by no stretch of the imagination a bad movie, it just lacks that unique spark that pulls a film into being a truly enjoyable time. Boring is worse than bad in some instances, and here it feels like Charlie Wilson’s War runs out of steam far too early, amalgamating into a truly dull experience.
Tom Hanks stars in one of his lesser known roles, the failed Oscar-bait portrayal of the titular Charlie Wilson falls flat as it tries to provide us with anything more than a surface look at one of the many interesting political figures of the 1980s. Political biopics are a sort of favourite of mine, my leniency towards that of The Front Runner and Argo highlights this well. But even I couldn’t feel myself getting invested in whatever was happening during the tenure of Charlie Wilson. A character who is bigger than the political system that looked to define him, yet at the same time not given enough development to develop into such a character throughout the film.
It’s a shame too, since Charlie Wilson’s War has all the makings of a truly great film. A stacked cast of notable talent, helmed by a director that has more than proven his worth several times and an interesting story that’s impact is still felt globally to this day. What went wrong is beyond me, although it may be down to the direction of Nichols. A shame, since instead of the genre defining direction, he brought us with his earlier work, it feels more tacky than anything else. Very basic, with no real interest in the shots or the cinematography wh he brought us with his earlier work, it feels tackier than anything else. Very basic, with no real interest in the shots or the cinematography whatsoever.
Possibly the best performance of the film is that of Phillip Seymour Hoffman. As ever he manages to give a great role that doesn’t get enough screen time to impact the film fully, but has just enough to show us how truly incredible an actor he was. An Oscar nod is thrown his way for a superb portrayal of Gust Avrakotos, a CIA agent that teams with Wilson as they take on the Soviets and their invasion of the Middle East.
A touchy subject, I’m sure, but Nichols manages to avoid the danger of controversy rather well. Maybe that’s why Charlie Wilson’s War isn’t an interesting movie. Its certain lack of picking a side is to its detriment, the correct way to tell a story. But it lacks a point of view, and meandering on the fence is no view at all. Especially not when you’ve pooled together such an incredible cast. A real travesty to have this much talent appear together, yet not do anything with them. Charlie Wilson’s War is a fine watch, but incredibly wasteful when you think of how good it could’ve been.