Film: Charlie Wilson’s War


Cast includes: Tom Hanks (The Green Mile), Amy Adams (Doubt), Julia Roberts (Pretty Woman), Philip Seymour Hoffman (Capote)
Direction: Mike Nichols (The Graduate)
Screenplay: Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing)
Genre: Historic-Based Drama/Comedy, based on a book by George Crile (2007)

In brief: Until now, Charlie Wilson’s greatest accomplishment in the US Congress had been in getting reelected 5 times. Who would have ever guessed that “Good-time Charlie” would become the first civilian ever to be awarded the CIA’s highest honor? Who would have guessed that Charlie’s dedication to an “esoteric cause” would have contributed to the break-up of the Soviet Union? “Without Charlie, history would have been vastly different,” they said when they honored him. Afghanistan was a country most Americans had barely heard of… the Russians had invaded it… God only knows why. As a member of the Foreign Operations Subcommittee and the National Defense Subcommittee, it comes to Charlie’s attention in 1980 that the CIA budget of $5 million for covert actions in Afghanistan was too low. “Double it,” Charlie says, thinking the issue is settled.

In the meantime, Gust Avrakatos, a career CIAer had recently been demoted to the Afghan desk. Gust and “three other guys were killing Russians” in case anyone cared. Joanne Herring, a born-again socialite from Charlie’s district in Texas, cared. As a favor to Joanne, Charlie agreed to visit the Pakistani president and get an earful on the Afghan problem. “You know you’ve hit rock bottom when you’ve been told you have character flaws by a man who hanged his predecessor in a military coup,” Charlie tells his assistant on the way to visit the Peshawar refugee camp. The sight of children maimed by explosive-rigged toys is a turning point for Charlie. That’s when he knows he needs to get involved for real. But US involvement in a war against the Soviet Union is sticky wickets. They can’t know the US is involved.

When Gust meets with Charlie for the first time, the most impressive thing about Charlie is his office staff… all beautiful girls with pet names like Jail Bait and Boo-Boo. Charlie isn’t very impressed with Gust, either. “How did you get into the CIA?” he wanted to know… “You ain’t James Bond.” “Well, you ain’t Thomas Jefferson,” Gust answers… “So let’s call it even.” And that’s how Good-Time Charlie and the son of a Greek soda-pop maker started an historic partnership and engineered the biggest covert war in US history.

Defeating the Russians may seem like ancient history in light of our own endless war on that “pile of rocks called Afghanistan.” But it did change the course of history. Charlie Wilson’s War not only tells the story of an often-overlooked chapter in world history, it’s a wonderfully entertaining movie. Written by Aaron Sorkin, the dialog is crisp and clever. Directed by Mike Nichols, the narrative is engaging and compelling. While, the scenes in Afghanistan don’t have the reality we used to lately, that’s about the only thing lacking in this film. Hanks and Hoffman are perfect as Charlie and Gust. Charlie later lamented, “We fucked up the end game.” Yep. Big time.

popcorn rating

4 popped kernels

You can’t make this stuff up… great story; an entertaining movie.

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