A stiff drink. A little mascara. A lot of nerve. Who said they couldn't bring down the Soviet empire.
Political movies about backroom negotiations need not be dry or heavy-handed, as Charlie Wilson's War delightfully proves. Based on the true story of playboy congressman Wilson's efforts to fund Afghanistan's defense against the Soviet invasion of the 1980s, the film is borne along on breezy attitude and a peppery script by West Wing scribe Aaron Sorkin. Wilson, played by Tom Hanks (who also produced), is the perfect hero for this kind of tale, because there's nothing perfect or heroic about him: He's a highball-swilling, fanny-pinching gadabout who becomes radicalized on the issue of helping the Afghans against their mighty aggressor. He has help in the form of a right-wing Texas anti-Communist (Julia Roberts) with a genius for raising money, and a sardonic CIA operative (Philip Seymour Hoffman, stealing the show) who lacks all the social skills Wilson has in abundance. Sorkin's syncopated speech is just the ticket for director Mike Nichols, who understands exactly how to keep this kind of political comedy popping (the complicated story comes in at a hair over 90 minutes, amazingly). Some scoundrels are on the right side of the angels, and the movie's Charlie Wilson is one of them. --Robert Horton