Charlie Wilson's War

  • Review Date: April 21, 2008
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Release Year: 2007
  • Running Time: 97 minutes

Common Sense Media says

Adult comedy takes an incisive look at politics.
  • Review Date: April 21, 2008
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Release Year: 2007
  • Running Time: 97 minutes

Age(i)

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Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Wilson isn't exactly the poster child for good behavior; he's sometimes lewd and pushy and he's plenty manipulative (so his is friend Gust). But his devotion to the rebel cause appears to be fueled by a need to do some good; when he visits Afghanistan, Wilson is moved to help make change happen. In fact, almost everyone involved in the Afghan cause in Wilson's inner circle seems to truly believe in their mission.

Violence

Some depictions of war violence, including demonstrations and artillery fire. In one memorable scene, a man argues loudly with his superior, then proceeds to break a glass window by hacking at it with a metal bar.

Sex

Charlie Wilson staffs his Beltway office with busty women, and there are plenty of cleavage shots. Even more skin is shown when women and men are naked in a hot tub; nude women are shown from the side and front, and there's a flash of a male backside. Charlie also beds a Texas socialite who wants him to help her political cause. They kiss, take a bath together, and speak in sexual innuendoes.

Language

Frequent use of strong language, including "f--k," "s--t," and "a--hole." Politics is a rough-and-tumble world, and so is the language.

Consumerism

Political names (John Murtha) and causes get plenty of air time, as does signage for locations. TV footage of news segments displays station logos and shows names.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Lots of boozing, in both social and professional settings (Wilson even asks his secretary to give him a drink). There's also a scene in which a crowd snorts cocaine, and everyone appears to smoke as well.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this Tom Hanks/Julia Roberts movie is decidedly adult. For starters, it deals with complex issues connected to political wrangling and Middle Eastern power struggles. And then there's the booze, gunfire, and sexual content (including some nudity), strong language (be ready for lots of "f--k"s)-- it's all here and then some. That said, the movie is also smart, with a main character who's infinitely more interesting than many other people in movies. While it's not perfect, it's still a worthy watch, especially for older teens and adults interested in the political process.

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What's the story?

Pay attention to the first 10 minutes of CHARLIE WILSON'S WAR. It tells you all you need to know about the titular Democratic Texan congressman (Tom Hanks) who, unbeknownst to many, apparently helped engineer the fall of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan by championing ways to covertly fund the Afghani rebels' operation in the early '80s. As the movie opens, Wilson is sitting in a hot tub drinking booze, surrounded by a bevy of naked, busty women (and some ogling men). But he's transfixed not by the bacchanalia around him, but rather by the news unspooling on television: The Russians have invaded Afghanistan. It's a memorable beginning for a fairly entertaining movie based on the book by George Crile, as well as a succinct capsule of who Wilson is: a smart, irreverent, and surprising politico with a penchant for drink and dames. That point is driven home later when right-wing socialite Joanne Herring (Julia Roberts -- great acting, bad accent), who likes to put her money where her politics is, champions the Afghan cause and persuades Wilson to get involved after a quick romp.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

Charlie Wilson is a bold role that demands a bold actor, and Hanks admirably rises to the occasion, aided by Aaron Sorkin's intelligent script and Mike Nichols' breezy direction. Paired with Philip Seymour Hoffman -- who plays Gust Avrakos, the CIA operative who guides Wilson through his cause -- he's giving it all he's got (and effortlessly, too).

But hold the box-office receipts: While Charlie Wilson's War manages to make intricate Capitol Hill and international relations maneuverings fun, it's a little too wonky to fully connect with mainstream audiences. As a one-hour West Wing episode, it would have been a smash. But as a feature film, it falls short, explicating too much and too often and wrapping up a complex issue too neatly in the end. Still, in today's political landscape, there's no denying that Charlie Wilson's War has resonance.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about Wilson's motives for supporting the Afghan rebels. Does it seem realistic that he would so quickly devote himself to a cause he doesn't at first appear to understand? Is the movie subject easy or hard to understand? The film is also one in a recent rush of war-themed movies; do you think it encapsulates the issues of the time in a clear and succinct way? Why is Hollywood producing so many war-themed films lately? How do the politicians come across?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:December 21, 2007
DVD release date:April 21, 2008
Cast:Julia Roberts, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Tom Hanks
Director:Mike Nichols
Studio:Universal Pictures
Genre:Comedy
Run time:97 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:strong language, nudity/sexual content and some drug use.

This review of Charlie Wilson's War was written by

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  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
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  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Parent of a 17 year old Written bychawla March 10, 2011
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Parent of a 13 year old Written bylatenightmom April 9, 2008
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entertaining movie about important history

I cannot understand why this film is listed as a comedy. It covers very serious ground while it moves the story along in a witty and entertaining manner. I recommend it for teens 16 and over and for all adults. The information the movie gives us about the US involvement with Afghanistan in the 70's and 80's and about how our government operates behind the scenes is an eye-opener and well worth knowing more about.
Adult Written byDrTJMc April 9, 2008
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