A day after being snubbed by the SAG awards, this A List project is doing well with a good critics' score at Rotten Tomatoes (78 was based on 90 notices), but less so at Meta Critic, averaging 66 based upon 23 reviews.
Among those who enjoyed the movie most was Lou Lumenick of the New York Post who thought, "Oscar winners Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Mike Nichols, with the help of 'West Wing' scribe Aaron Sorkin, find considerable laughter in this allegedly fact-based mission improbable."
Writing for AP, Christy Lemire calls the film, "a crisp, biting satire that confidently mixes sex and politics, glides along so smartly and smoothly, it makes you wonder how it's possible that director Mike Nichols and writer Aaron Sorkin have never teamed up before." She says, "When you're thinking about a Scotch-guzzling, good ol' boy bachelor, Hanks may not immediately spring to mind, but he finds the sweetness within Wilson's legendary charisma. (Amusingly, one of the many women Wilson dated over the years was Nichols' current wife, Diane Sawyer.) He and a brash, breezy Roberts enjoy some appealing flirty exchanges, if not much sexual chemistry. But then Hoffman, a force of nature in every character role, storms in and blows away everyone in his path."
And Stephen Hunter of the Washington Post says, "the best thing about the film is the speed at which Nichols, from Aaron Sorkin's snarky script, moves the thing along and keeps the cracks wise. Gosh, does this movie have it all or what? Smart dialogue, Julia Roberts in a bikini and looking grrrrrr-eattttt, and Russian helicopters going boom! It's also short! What's not to love?"
Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly found "Hanks, who has been repressing the sleaze he showed in early roles for too long, bites into Charlie's buttery corruption, and Nichols and Sorkin turn the wonkish jargon of politics into light comedy by staying absolutely true to it. There's so much lying going on that each time someone actually comes out with something he believes, it's like the jabbiest of punchlines."
Among the naysayers, Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times found the film, "an anachronism, the wrong movie at the wrong time. Not only does it tell its tale in a style that feels dated and artificial, the story itself focuses on events that history has overtaken. The moving finger has written and moved on, and not even the combined star power of Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, writer Aaron Sorkin and director Mike Nichols can do anything about it."
And Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune says, "Something doesn’t smell right with 'Charlie Wilson’s War.' I’m not particularly concerned with the specific facts it has left out of its telling. But what has been left in feels compromised and dodgy. The film glides along on the polish provided by the on-screen and off-screen talent, and when the 90-odd minutes have run their course, you’re left with a sensation of punches pulled and a $75 million budget protected."