In the early 1980s, Charlie Wilson is a womanizing US congressional representative from Texas who seemed to be in the minor leagues, except for the fact that he is a member of two major foreign policy and covert-ops committees. However, prodded by his major conservative supporter, Houston Socialite Joanne Herring, Wilson learns about the plight the people are suffering in the brutal Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. With the help of the maverick CIA agent, Gustav "Gust" Avrakotos, Wilson dedicates his canny political efforts to supply the Afghan mujahideen with the weapons and support to defeat the Soviet Union. However, Charlie Wilson eventually learns that while military victory can be had, there are other consequences and prices to that fight that are ignored to everyone's sorrow.Written by
Kenneth Chisholm (email@example.com)
CIA Award Presenter:
The defeat and break up of the Soviet empire, culminating in the crumbing of the Berlin wall, is one of the great events of world history. There were many heroes in this battle but to Charlie Wilson must go this special recognition. Just thirteen years ago the Soviet army appeared to be invincible. But Charlie, undeterred, engineered a lethal body blow that weakened the communist empire. Without Charlie, history would be hugely and sadly different. And so for the first time a ...
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Charlie's Wilson's War demonstrates with deft veracity just how futile wars can be, especially to the very people who spend countless hours and finances to fund them. Virtuoso performances and remarkably memorable characters teamed with a riotously sarcastic script catapult the film, helmed by the continuously unpredictable Mike Nichols, to the top of the year's best. Politics has never been so much fun.
Charlie Wilson (Tom Hanks) is a Texas congressman who is credited with almost single-handedly winning the Cold War. Hanging around plenty of drugs, women and scotch, he also takes an unexpected interest in the events in Afghanistan and the terrors of the Soviet Union in the 1980s. Enlisting the help of Gust Avrakotos (Philip Seymour Hoffman) a renegade CIA covert mission expert and Joanne (Julia Roberts), a wealthy socialite, he raises money to provide Afghanistan with the rocket launchers and antitank weaponry they need to cause serious damage to Russian military. Eventually by the end of the 80s the Cold War would come to an end, and the funds would immediately be cut, thereby removing all help for the fledgling country to rebuild and recoup.
The acting is exquisite, although it's to be expected from the more than accomplished cast. A large part of that however, should be attributed to the script, which allows each character to be undeniably well-developed and memorable. And a hearty helping of that credit goes to the novel of the same name, which is hilariously honest. Tom Hanks delivers yet another unequaled performance as Charlie Wilson, the man who did so much for so many and yet still remains relatively unknown. Philip Seymour Hoffman plays Gust, a character that is vividly boffo in both his physicality and his wry cynicism; the inimitable Hoffman once again shows superb range in the characters he portrays. Julia Roberts is perhaps the only weak link of the film, with her generic snobbish character and not-subtle-enough accent. And then there's Wilson's "jailbait" squad of young secretaries that scamper about to keep him happy. Led by the always delightful Amy Adams, each supporting role has its mirthful moments.
Defeating the Soviet Union was not an easy task, especially considering the many conflicting goals between the various political leaders. "Why is Congress saying one thing and doing nothing?" queries a disgruntled politician. "Tradition mostly", returns Wilson. Everyone appears to want the Cold War to end, yet a blind eye is being turned to the atrocities taking place in Afghanistan. It takes a trip to the war-torn refugee camps in Pakistan to motivate Wilson, as well as with his main financial source Doc Long (Ned Beatty). Wilson uses strategic ties with committees to raise funding of weaponry in Afghanistan from $5 million to $10 million with a simple command, but the president of Pakistan scoffs at the idea of winning a war for such a trivial amount. By the end of the Wilson campaign, $1 billion is sent to the Mujahedin to shoot down Russian helicopters - the first step toward victory, as Wilson predicted. Beyond the scope of the film, the unresolved turmoil in Afghanistan led to further, less ignorable problems, which Wilson presumably foresaw.
During the course of Charlie Wilson's War, the main characters travel from the United States to Pakistan to Afghanistan to Jerusalem to Egypt, but wherever they go, sarcasm always follows. There's a surprising amount of comedy in the film, considering the political undertones are generally serious. Hoffman provides jokes with almost every exchange of dialogue, as does Hanks, with his naturally witty woman-chasing ideals. A scene early on featuring Gust being continually ushered in out of Wilson's office as he tries to straighten out a legal issue with his posse of gorgeous gals ("you can teach 'em to type, but you can't teach 'em to grow tits") reminds me of a slapstick routine from the Marx Brothers.
With the press focusing on the drug allegations against Wilson, instead of the important issues of the Cold War, and the conflicting desire of officials to budget their help, it's clear that by the end of the film, the politicians are still oblivious to what's really necessary. And since the screenplay is so quick-witted and astute, some audience members may not be able to keep up with all of the dialogue-intensive events. But, as demonstrated by the politicians who are ignorant as to the difference between Pakistan and Afghanistan, it's essentially another argument to support Charlie Wilson's point.
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