Tom Hanks is the quintessential “intelligent actor.” What I mean by that is I don’t know the last time I saw Tom Hanks in a bad film. Tom Hanks probably wouldn’t be on the top of anyone’s “best ever actors list.” He would certainly be near the top, maybe making top five and I’d argue always top ten but hardly ever number one but if you look at some of the people put in higher regard, some of their film choices are a bit dodgy. The classic duo is Robert De Niro and Al Pacino. There is no doubt that these two are brilliant acting legends but some of their film choices baffle me. For every Casino, Goodfellas, Scarface and Godfather, there is a Meet the Fockers, Rocky and Bullwinkle, Jack and Jill and The Recruit.
Tom Hanks doesn’t seem to make those kinds of films. While De Niro makes Shark’s Tale, Hanks makes Toy Story. If Hanks is going to make something like a romantic comedy, he makes something that has appeal. You’ve Got Mail was an attempt to rekindle the Sleepless in Seattle spark. Larry Crowne (which I haven’t seen) has the appeal of Hanks opposite Julia Roberts, a combination that is well worth a watch. It means that even if you don’t like the look of the film or even if its something you’d usually be unsure about, the fact that Tom Hanks has chosen to star in it makes you think twice. He has carved out such a respectable back catalogue that I’ll watch anything he’s in. I can’t honestly say that about De Niro, especially if that films begins with Meet the…
This brings us (finally) to Charlie Wilson’s War. I added this to my LoveFilm list off the back of Tom Hanks starring. I remember seeing the trailer and not really being that bothered. It looked like it wanted to be “light-drama” and featured a part of history I wasn’t familiar with or that excited about. So when Charlie Wilson’s War came in the post, I put it on, not expecting too much.
I loved it. It had the perfect mix of sharp dialogue, brilliant actors and it was pitched at a level that wasn’t too “hard drama” or too “farcical political film.” The key is the script. All the way through I was thinking “this seems like it could have been written by Aaron Sorkin.” The dialogue was smart but real. The characters played off each other perfectly and you never felt like you were watching any high drama. Imagine my surprise when I found out he did actually write it!
If I’d known from the beginning that Sorkin had written it, I would have tried to watch this film a lot sooner. I haven’t seen West Wing yet (shocking I know, I am going to rectify this) but I loved Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and the writing is what makes Social Network such a good film. You add Sorkin’s writing to a good basic story, delivered by great actors and you have a mix that should give you a witty, clever but watchable film.
It helps that the actors he is writing for are Hanks, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Julia Roberts. Each of these handle the script brilliantly and just click when they are in a scene together. Hanks cocky Charlie Wilson is so cool I wish I knew him. The way Hoffman speaks to people, even Wilson, is so brash that you can’t help but be impressed and Roberts just fits the strong, influential, political woman perfectly.
The story itself is a lot more intriguing and interesting than the trailer gives it credit for. I was sucked into the story from the moment it began and the fact that it is a true story helps it make much more of an impact. The nods to what the events of the film foreshadow are not just clever but at times they are also chilling and though I don’t know how accurate the events depicted actually are, the film does make you consider how things could have been different.
Overall, Hanks has picked another excellent film. Sorkin’s writing gives it a witty but intelligent edge and the story is gripping without being too politically heavy. Don’t let the fact that it’s a political film put you off (if that isn’t your “cup of tea.”) Look past the Senators, Iraq and Gun Trade and you have a clever, watchable film.
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)