HE reader Nate West took exception yesterday to my description of Charlie Wilson’s War — the reading of Aaron Sorkin‘s script, I meant — as “a feel-good ride.” He said that a line I used about the admirable actions of the three main characters (played by Tom Hanks, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Julia Roberts) having consequences that reverberate throughout the world today is an oblique reference to a certain catastrophic 21st Century event.
“The real story of Charlie Wilson’s War isn’t about victory,” he concluded. “It’s about blowback. Perhaps those seeking a feel-good ride aren’t interested in such ironies.”
My answer was yes, it’s mostly a feel-good ride…until the last 19 or 20 pages. Yes, it’s about blowback, as in “no good deed goes unpunished.” Which, of course, is the most common definition of irony in the book.
Truth be told, I’m not quite sure how I feel about the ending. It’s striking and of course it delivers a turn in the road — call it an end-of-the-third-act thud — and it’s obviously truthful. It’s just that I don’t know what the movie is saying about the journey of our three characters except the obvious, which is that they performed craftily and wonderfully until the whole thing turned around or metastasized several years later at which point they were left with very mixed and confused feelings. Which will be true for the audience also, I suspect.
But it’s a hell of a good ride (and wonderfully written in that smart, sassy, Sorkin-esque way) for the first 136 pages. And that ain’t hay.