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As creator and head writer of The West Wing, Aaron Sorkin had a gift for making policy debate seem sexy, but what worked in the context of that liberal fantasy founders badly amid the realpolitik of this cold war drama. Tom Hanks gives a nicely layered performance as “Good Time Charlie” Wilson, the hard-partying Texas congressman who orchestrated Washington's military funding of the Afghan mujahideen against the Soviet Union, and Sorkin draws a sophisticated map of the political forces Wilson had to align (with Julia Roberts hamming it up as right-wing Houston socialite Joanne Herring). But the legacy of the Afghan war is so ambiguous now that Sorkin and director Mike Nichols can't find a fixed perspective on Wilson's achievement, which seems alternately heroic, ironic, and tragic. With Amy Adams and Philip Seymour Hoffman. R, 97 min.

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