I’m not really a huge fan of Tom Hanks. Don’t get my wrong, I don’t dislike the guy but in recent years he hasn’t taken many risks and as a result I never think to myself “I wonder what Tom Hanks will do next?”

I’m hardly a big fan of Julia Roberts either. Again, don’t get me wrong, it’s nothing personal, but there’s very little work on her resume that appeals to me and again, almost everything she appears in, is pretty standard and by the books for a star of her calibre.

However, there is something about their performances in Charlie Wilson’s War that stand out for me.

They’re not exactly cast against type here, but with Aaron Sorkin’s script and Mike Nichols’ direction, the viewer is treated to some pretty dynamic and rather excellent performances.

Playing the title character, Tom Hank’s portrayal of Charlie Wilson initially portrays the man as a charming and comical congress man who is more of a playboy than an elected politician.

Julia Roberts as Joanne Herring

Julia Roberts as Joanne Herring

As he parades around with his staff (all of which are attractive young buxom women, commonly known as Charlie’s Angels), oozing charisma and confidence, Charlie Wilson’s attention is drawn to the Russian vs Taliban conflict in Afghanistan.

Recognising the need to financially back the Taliban, Wilson is drawn into a life changing journey which takes him into the murky political underworld of the cold war with often hilarious results.

Julia Roberts is deliciously catty as Joanne Herring, the millionaire that sets Wilson off on his way. Carrying a certain element of grace and sophistication that only Julia Roberts could pull off. Her character is smart, beautiful and surprisingly sharp tongued.

One of my favourite scenes in the movie is when Joanne walks casually past Charlie’s Angels, gives them a look of complete disdain and simply says “sluts” and then walks off.

No dissection of this film would be complete without a mention for Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s portrayal of Gustav Avrakotos, the no nonsense spy who is not afraid to smash an office window if the occasion calls for it. Once again he is on top form again and worth noting he was nominated for an Oscar for this role.

Naturally in a post 911 climate, the film also serves as a gentle reminder to the ramifications of getting involved with international politics and the consequences of can happen. Watch out for a particularly breath taking scene near the end where Gustav tells Charlie the story of the zen master and the little boy.

As I mentioned earlier, Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts are fairly bankable stars and rarely do we get to see them play anyone else other than some version of themselves. However, under Mike Nichols’ direction and Aaron Sorkin’s script, it’s great to see these two stars chewing on some decent line and doing what they could potentially do best, acting.

And I think that is why I love Charlie Wilson’s War, it reminded me that these two films stars are actually pretty good actors and not just celebrities.

About The Author

Colin lives in south west London. Looks like a hobbit and has been watching films ever since he saw Return of the Jedi at the age of 3. You can follow Colin on Twitter @obicolkenobi.