Every now and then, a film comes along that has Oscar written all over it. If you were to look at CVs of those involved in Charlie Wilson’s War, you’d know that putting money on this little outfit to pick up a slew of golden men in a couple of months’ time is likely to be one of the safest bets you’ve ever made.
Top of the bill, as the titular Charlie Wilson, is none other than Tom Hanks – the Academy’s favourite star for well over a decade now, with two Oscars and another three nominations under his belt. In the female lead slot comes yet another star much beloved of the Academy voters, Best Actress winner and two-time nominee Julia Roberts – in a proper acting role again after her last three movies involving little more than voice duties in Charlotte’s Web and The Ant Bully and “amusingly” playing a woman who ends up pretending to be, erm, Julia Roberts, in Ocean’s Twelve. Then there’s Hollywood’s current favourite character actor, Philip Seymour Hoffman – whose unconventional looks haven’t stopped him from picking up any number of leading roles over the last few years, as well as a Best Actor statuette. Rounding off the cast comes future Oscar shoe-in, Amy Adams, most recently seen playing a Disney princess in the fun kids’ flick Enchanted, and Oscar nominated for the oddball Junebug a couple of years back.
Just among the principle cast, that’s a total of ten Oscars or nominations amongst them – and that’s before we even get to director Mike Nichols, who picked up his first nomination more that 40 years ago for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolfe? He also won Best Director for the classic The Graduate in 1968 and has since been nominated a further three times.
And then, of course, there’s the subject matter. Hollywood loves nothing more than something that seems vaguely political and slightly controversial, going way back to 1930’s First World War epic All Quiet on the Western Front, up to 2004’s boxing-cum-euthanasia flick Million Dollar Baby. This has it in spades – revolving around the real-life story of the American politician who, while being a typical millionaire playboy lothario by day, spent the time he wasn’t wining and dining helping to plot the downfall of the Soviet Union in 1980s Afghanistan. Yes – he’s the man who convinced the US to fund the Mujahedeen against the Russians, and so unwittingly helped give Al Qaida the financial boost they needed to cause all the trouble of the last few years.
Chuck in an intelligent script by one of the few screenwriters today whose name people actually know – West Wing creator Aaron Skorkin – and you can just picture the dollar signs and packed awards cabinets lighting up in the studio executives’ eyes.
Thankfully, however, for audiences this is just as satisfying – a complex yet fun political biopic of a man whose impact on the shape of the world today was as unlikely as was a career in high-flying international politics for a man who seemed more interested in wine, women and song than the state of the world. It is, in other words, yet another top-notch Hanks performance in a perfect Oscar vehicle, and bound to be one of the films of the year.