The Student News Site of Northern Michigan University

The North Wind

The North Wind

The North Wind

Meet the Staff
Matthew Sarna
Business Manager

The North Wind Editorial Sessions
About us

The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Dallas WiertellaApril 30, 2024

‘Charlie’ offers up rare political fun

(4 stars out of 5)

War films were once a staple of the American cinema, pulling in huge crowds and plenty of awards. However, so many of these films have been made in recent years that the genre has become bogged down. Perhaps that was “Closer” director Mike Nichols’s reasoning for his latest, “Charlie Wilson’s War,” an adaptation of a George Crile book by the same name. Instead of making a war movie about Afghanistan fighting the Soviets, Nichols takes an alternate route by showing the politics behind our involvement in the conflict. But films strictly about politics can be a hard sell. Fortunately, Nichols is able to pull through and deliver a great film filled with charismatic yet real characters.

Set in the early ’80s, “Wilson’s War” follows Texas politician Charlie Wilson (Tom Hanks). A Congressman whom everyone likes, Wilson spends most of his time drinking and sleeping with women, with the occasional vote or sub-committee in between. After watching a report on the war in Afghanistan, Wilson realizes that, with the right people, he could actually help the Afghans win the war, and hopefully begin the process that could lead to the downfall of the Soviet Union. After joining wealthy political activist Joanne Herring (Julia Roberts) and CIA Agent Gust Avrakotos (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), Wilson begins to fund a covert operation to get weapons into Afghanistan.

“Wilson’s War” is at its best when the actors are given the spotlight. The cast is varied, from the sexist, alcoholic Wilson, to the blunt and loud Avrakotos. It’s interesting to watch this behind-the-scenes look at these real life characters because they act nothing like you’d expect them to.

Story continues below advertisement

Of course, when you have a cast that includes Tom Hanks and Phillip Seymour Hoffman, the acting is going to be top notch. Although this movie ends up being about Wilson, neither Hanks nor Hoffman steal the show, putting in equally impressive performances. Roberts does a good job herself, but in the presence of Hanks, some of her scenes come across a bit flat.

What was surprising about “Wilson’s War” was its pacing. Not once did I find myself wondering how much time was left, and with a movie that’s 98 percent politics and 2 percent action, that’s an accomplishment. The subject matter is interesting and the dialogue surprisingly funny. I laughed more times during this than I have at some comedies. The script was able to deliver its message without being vague or heavy handed. It was this perfect balance that allowed “Wilson’s War” to move effortlessly from start to finish.

Some of Nichols’s choices in terms of style left me puzzled. What was bothersome was the use of actual footage of the war intercut with the few scenes of battle he filmed. While it was interesting to see real clips, there was an obvious difference in quality between the real footage and the filmed scenes. In some instances, Nichols would quickly cut back and forth between real and staged shots. While it might have sounded like a good idea, it came across as fake, often being more distracting rather than enhancing the experience.

Although they took up small parts of the film, these scenes were poorly done. In fact, they could’ve been cut from the film and I wouldn’t miss them.

Don’t let the political nature of “Wilson’s War” fool you. The movie is anything but boring. It’s informative, funny, and has an important message that can be applied to issues currently facing us. With theaters packed with films about treasure hunters and aliens blowing stuff up, “Wilson’s War” is a very much needed breath of fresh air.

More to Discover