An overemphasis on Wilson’s womanising in ‘Charlie Wilson’s War’ distracts us all from what’s really going on, but directs me towards another topic altogether: cinematography!
This film got me thinking about a number of things. Politics and the troubles in the East were not at the forefront of my mind, however. It’s not that Mike Nichols’ drama is bad: Hanks and Roberts are good, I suppose, as Wilson and Joanne Herring, despite their irritating Texan accents that just don’t seem to fit them at all. Amy Adams turns out another good performance and Philip Seymour Hoffman is as entertaining as ever. The problem here is that the plot which concentrates on Wilson, his women and his neverending supply of whiskey and cigars sits uneasily with the political strife in the East. It is realistic but perhaps it is Nichols’ way of merging the two worlds that makes it difficult for us to focus properly on Wilson the well-meaning politician as opposed to Wilson the ladies man. This is emphasised even more by the various shots throughout the movie, often focusing on female body parts. The shot that stood out the most, however, for it’s bizarre nature rather than for any truly positive reasons, had to be the shot of a pair of feet in high heeled shoes (Amy Adams’ feet as it happens) walking along a corridor. This in itself is normal enough but when it is overlaying a shot of a Soviet plane blowing apart in the dusty street of an Afghan village, it’s another thing altogether. That whole scene screamed of the attempt to create an iconic moment, a shot that would be remembered, but it’s a failed attempt in my book anyhow. Jumping from scared war victims to a woman’s rear end in a matter of moments detaches the audience from what may have been an emotional scene or at least a scene of some dramatic importance. And I hate that overlaying trick anyway!
Whether that scene was created with the intention that it be an iconic moment in the film, well I can’t be sure. What I do know is that such iconic moments seem to happen naturally in films that are already great movies anyway. Think Marilyn Monroe’s white dress over an air vent moment or Jimmy Cagney on top of a fuel tank. Then think of all those cheesy moments of enforced sentimentality (that awful smoky train station meeting in Pearl Harbour). Now think again of the high heels over an explosion moment…yes it’s confusing; we’re not sure what we’re supposed to feel and we don’t feel anything naturally because we’re already confused about what direction this film is taking. The choice to overlay two shots drives home the fact the Wilson’s war and Wilson’s women are two very different topics and bringing them together will just disrupt them both.