Who's in It:
Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Philip Seymour Hoffman
The Basics: Charlie Wilson was one of those let-the-good-times-roll Texas senators in the 1970s. But when he discovered that the people of Afghanistan were trying to fight off a Soviet invasion in 1979, he went to rich conservatives and started his own covert war by helping get the holy warriors the weapons and know-how they needed. This prevented the Soviets from blasting their way through to the Middle East but it also helped make the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 happen.
What's the Deal? Sometimes, it can work against you to be a big Christmas-release/Oscar-grubbing kind of movie featuring A-list stars. Here's why: You're trying to make a somewhat dark, rueful political comedy that's a true story, one where the main characters are still living and your actors are the kind most people enjoy best when they're all smiles and chatting with Oprah. What you're going to end up with is something less than biting, a movie more concerned with boozy antics and extras with Farrah-hair than with pointing fingers at history's secret players.
Saving Movies Single-Handedly Can Be a Thankless Job: Hoffman is one of those guys that you hope never wins his Oscars and spends the rest of his life in crap like The Da Vinci Code. And lucky for us, he doesn't seem to be very interested in that kind of thing. Here, he's a caustic CIA guy who makes every single thing onscreen around him seem way more interesting than it is. Just by opening his mouth and reciting dialogue, it's like someone threw an angry hornet's nest into the middle of the movie.
Julia Roberts Scorecard: I'm a fan. I really am. But what's up with the not-very-Texan Texas accent? I'm from Texas, so I speak with some authority. Her Georgia is showing. Saving it all, however, is the ridorkulous wig technique she's got happening here. It's not true 1979 big and poufy, but it's close enough for 2007.
Movie You Should Watch After You Overdose on the Cuteness of This One: A documentary from this year called No End in Sight. It's about political decisions gone wrong, too. Just substitute Iraq for Afghanistan.