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Charlie Wilson’s War: Eye-Opening Entertainment

Note: I asked GiggleSugar to go to write up this review, and she graciously agreed. Thanks, Giggle!

Charlie Wilson (Tom Hanks) is a Texas Congressman who drinks whisky in the morning, whose single notable legislative achievement is having been re-elected five times, and who hires only sexy young women as aides. “You can teach ‘em to type,” his secretary quotes him as saying, “but you can’t teach ‘em to grow tits.”

Yet we see him in a flash forward at the beginning of Charlie Wilson’s War receiving an unusual military honor for playing a part in helping to end the Cold War between the Soviets and the US. How do we reconcile the ne’er-do-well Charlie with the unlikely hero Charlie?

Based on a true story and adapted from a book by George Crile, Charlie Wilson’s War is a smart and fast-paced comedy written by Aaron Sorkin (West Wing) and directed by Mike Nichols that seeks not only to answer the question of Charlie’s transformation but also to explain the complicated history of the U.S.’s often covert involvement in global affairs. It does this in an engaging way by focusing on the flawed people who turn the wheels of history. The film manages a difficult balancing act: it is informative without being boring, entertaining without being trivial, and political without being partisan. To see more what I mean,

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In an opening scene, Charlie Wilson, a Texas Congressman who is on the war appropriations subcommittee, is hanging out in a hot tub with a few naked strippers and a sleazy-looking guy who’s trying to sell him on financing a movie starring his Playboy centerfold girlfriend. Instead of being fixated on the broads, booze and blow that surround him, Charlie continues to be distracted by a news program with Dan Rather interviewing Afghan soldiers. Charlie tries to get some dialogue going with his riffraff pals, but nobody seems interested in Afghanistan or even knows where it is.

Back in Washington, Charlie’s interest in the Afghan cause deepens. Like other Americans who are watching the news, he only knows the basics. Afghanistan is being repeatedly invaded and pummeled by the Soviet army, and against their modern tanks and missiles, the Afghans only have outmoded guns. In addition to the danger that the Soviets will continue their “commie” expansion, the human cost of Afghan lives (particularly women and children) affects the Congressman. His goal is to raise more funds in order to arm the Afghan mujahadeen ("fighters") with modern weapons so that they can shoot down the Soviet helicopters that menace them.

Throughout the course of the film, Charlie enlists the aid of a wealthy socialite, the brittle and powerful Joanne (Julia Roberts), a born-again Christian who is passionate about freedom of religion for the Afghans and who holds fundraisers for their cause. (Somehow, she also knows the President of Pakistan and arranges for Charlie to meet him.) He also gets help from a burnt-out CIA operative Gust Avrakatos (played by a hilarious Philip Seymour Hoffman) who clues Charlie in on how little the U.S. is doing to covertly aid the Afghan army.

With effective — if at times caricatured — performances from its actors, crisp and witty dialogue, and a bittersweet ending that makes the viewer see there’s a gray area between winning and losing a war, Charlie Wilson’s War is infotainment at its finest.

To see the trailer and more clips from Charlie Wilson's War, check out movies.ivillage.com.

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flutterpie flutterpie 8 years
this was quite possibly the best movie that i have seen in years, it was extremely engrossing and parts that could have been dulled were lightened up with thoughtful humor. i seriously cannot wait to see this movie win best actor for tom hanks and best screenplay for aaron sorkin.
Linda-McP Linda-McP 8 years
This one tops our list for weekend movie going. Looking forward to seeing it and Atonement.
Bookish Bookish 8 years
This looks interesting but I can't stand Julia Roberts, so I won't go and see it.
blythe15 blythe15 8 years
I wasn't sure I would see this one, even though I love many Mike Nichols movies, but you've convinced me to give it a chance, Giggle! I was worried by exactly what you said...that it would either be trivializing important things, or throwing boring political exposition into a light comedy...but it sounds interesting and funny! What a surprise. Thanks, Giggle
Grantz Grantz 8 years
I thought this film was a good historical look at Russia's last implemented war on another country. And the delicate process America trodded providing aid to fight the Soviet Union covertly. And although a few facts were probably changed for dramatic puroposes. I thought the movie was very insightful politically. I do think the film is receiving a little more acclaim than it deserves. But still, I found it very good and concur with Giggle Sugar's 3.5 rating.. Cheers~ Grantz
emalove emalove 8 years
I bought this book two weeks ago but haven't started it yet. I am looking forward to seeing the movie too.
Lilhighlander Lilhighlander 8 years
I can't wait to see this! I'm reading the book right now!
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