Movie Reviews | Hunting Party, The Devil & Charlie Wilson

A few more reviews of movies you can find in the balad with excellent quality and are actually worth watching.

Charlie Wilson’s War | Charlie Wilson’s War | Aaron Sorkin of West Wing and A Few Good Men fame, pens this witty and sharp script, with Tom Hanks playing the role of Charlie Wilson. A Texan congressman who was on two subcommittees that controlled CIA funding, Wilson was known (though not widely) for his role in increasing US funding to Afghanistan for their fight against the Soviets in what is now known as one of the largest covert operations in recent history. Wilson, almost singlehandedly, spent years increasing the black-ops budget from the initial $5 million in appropriations that was available before he took an interest, to around half a billion. In this way, the movie aims to look at how the CIA funded and trained the Mujahideen, who would go on to defeat a superpower, signifying the eventual decline of the Soviet Union. But the movie also looks at how after all that funding, Afghanistan was abandoned by the US, leaving the Taliban to move in, and fill the void.

Hanks portrayal of Wilson is that of a very colorful Texan, who was a womanizer and a big fan of alcohol, once even investigated by then district attorney from New York, Rudy Giuliani. One story related in the movie, which I found interesting was how Wilson “entered politics” at the age of 13, after his next door neighbour, a city incumbent Charles Hazard, killed Wilson’s dog by mixing glass with his food after the dog trampled on his flower garden. So Wilson, with his farmer’s driving license, drove 96 black voters who had never voted, down to the polling stations and on the way informed them how Hazard had killed his dog. After Hazard lost by 16 votes, Wilson went to his house to tell him he shouldn’t poison any more dogs.

Sorkin’s writing is easy to spot. There’s a lot of sharp wit in the dialog, which suits Wilson’s character, not to mention the liberal politics Sorkin is a known fan of. Meanwhile, Julia Roberts plays a wealthy Texan who pushes Wilson along, but the show stealer in my opinion is Philip Seymour Hoffman, who plays CIA officer Gust Avrakotos, Wilson’s paranoid and no-bullshitting sidekick throughout this misadventure. Hoffman may very well win the Golden Globe for best supporting actor, and will most likely get the similar accolade at the Oscars.

I suppose on some level, the movie is another in a slew of recent American cultural references that explore Afghanistan’s terrible history since the 1970’s, America’s role in that history, and of course, 9/11. The movie runs a quote by Charlie Wilson that I think sums it all up: “These things happened. They were glorious and they changed the world… and then we fucked up the endgame.”

A great watch: 5/5

The Hunting Party | Starring Richard Gere and Terrance Howard, both play journalists who after parting ways during the Bosnian war, reunite to find “The Fox” – a lethal war criminal infamous for his massacre of Bosnian Muslims during the war. But along their way to the Serbian hills where they think he’s hiding, people who would defend The Fox to the death are keeping an eye on them, convinced they are a CIA hit squad coming to assassinate their leader.

The film is somewhat fun, with Gere and Howard being able to elevate it into a pretty riveting tale. It’s very story-driven with a disclaimer at the start claiming that the most ludicrous parts of the movie being the parts which are true. And I think that’s where the charm of this film lies: it’s essentially a story about two journalists who go out to find a war criminal that NATO, the UN and the CIA could not find, or as the movie suggests, didn’t want to find. It’s directed by Richard Shepard who also did The Matador, and like that film it is very colorful and is filled with dark comedy.

An enjoyable watch: 4/5

Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead | The title of the film comes from the Irish saying “May you be in heaven half an hour before the devil knows you’re dead”. It’s kind of a good title given the story. Two brothers, played by Ethan Hawke and Philip Seymour Hoffman, are facing financial troubles in their separate lives. One brother has a drug problem and embezzles money from the company he works for, while the other is struggling to pay child support. So they plan to rob their parents’ jewelery store with the idea that the insurance will cover their losses. During the robbery however, their mother gets shot and dies, sending them spiraling in an unraveling of events. Sidney Lumet directs the film, with it being cut up into various parts all stitched together to form a story. It is character driven so every character gets their story told before, on the, and after the day of the robbery.

It’s hard categorizing it as either thriller or drama. It’s just an excellent watch: 4/5

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