Film Review: Charlie Wilson’s War

12 Jan

Plot: Charlie Wilson (Tom Hanks) was a bachelor congressman from Texas who had a habit of showing up in hot tubs with strippers and cocaine. His “Good Time Charlie” exterior, however, masked an extraordinary mind, a deep sense of patriotism and a passion for the underdog, and in the early 1980s the underdog was Afghanistan-which had just been brutally invaded by the Russians. Charlie’s longtime friend and patron and sometime lover was Joanne Herring (Julia Roberts), one of the wealthiest women in Texas and a virulent anti-communist. Believing the American response to the Russian invasion was anemic at best, she prods Charlie into doing more for the Mujahideen (Afghan freedom fighters). Charlie’s partner in this uphill endeavor is CIA Agent Gust Avrakotos (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a blue-collar operative in a company of Ivy League blue bloods. …(read more…)

Together, the three of them-Charlie, Joanne and Gust-travel the world to form unlikely alliances among the Pakistanis, Israelis, Egyptians, arms dealers, law makers and a belly dancer.Their success was remarkable. Funding for covert operations against the Soviets went from $5 million to $1 billion annually. The Red Army retreated out of Afghanistan. When asked how a group of peasants was able to deliver such a decisive blow to the army of a superpower, Pakistani President Mohammad Zia ul-Haq responded simply, “Charlie did it.”

If you know your history, you might remember that the events leading to the end of the Cold War was because after the Russians withdrew from Afghanistan in late 80’s, shortly after that the Berlin Wall fell, and we have the then US President Ronald Reagan to thank for it. But little is known that it was some Texan Democrat Congressman named Charlie Wilson who really deserved the credit. Charlie who?

Charlie Wilson’s War is a very good political comedy that did not want to overpreach but also reminded you of the horrors of war and its after effects. Hanks gave a charismatic performance of Charlie, whose character may be flawed (but is there anyone in any government who isnt?) but he had a big heart. I adored that scene where he first met the President of Pakistan and his military advisers. Philip Seymour Hoffman was as always brilliant as a washed out but just as passionate CIA agent who came to Charlie’s aid. This film is somehow billed as Julia Roberts comeback movie and she did an equally good job playing the socialite encouraging Charlie to do it.

I am not a big fan of any film with huge political agendas, we saw a few of them released last year (Lions for Lambs, The Kingdom, just to name a few) and at least to me none came close to the message that Charlie Wilson’s War is trying to get across, in that what do we do then after we mess it up? After all the smoke from the pile of rubble has cleared, what will you do?

Charlie Wilson’s War: 4/5

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