Charlie Wilson’s War


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Rating: R

Tom Hanks as Rep. Charlie Wilson
Amy Adams as Bonnie Bach
Julia Roberts as Joanne Herring
Philip Seymour Hoffman as Gust Avrakotos
Terry Bozeman as CIA Award Presenter
Brian Markinson as Paul Brown
Jud Tylor as Crystal Lee
Hilary Angelo as Kelly
Cyia Batten as Stacey
Daniel Eric Gold as Donnelly
Emily Blunt as Jane Liddle
Peter Gerety as Larry Liddle

Special Features:
The Making of “Charlie Wilson’s War”
Who Is Charlie Wilson?

Other Info:
Widescreen (1.85:1)
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
Spanish and French Language
Spanish and French Subtitles
Running Time: 1 Hour 42 Minutes

The following is from the DVD description:

“Academy Award® winners Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts and Philip Seymour Hoffman star in this compelling and witty film from Oscar®-winning director Mike Nichols and Primetime Emmy®-winning writer Aaron Sorkin (‘The West Wing’). Based on the outrageous true story, Charlie Wilson’s War shows how one congressman who loved a good time, one Houston socialite who loved a good cause and one renegade CIA agent who loved a good fight conspired to bring about the largest covert operation in history.”

“Charlie Wilson’s War” is rated R for strong language, nudity/sexual content and some drug use.

Being a Texan, I’m interested in any film related to Texas history. And I’m even more interested when a film makes a bold claim about a couple of Texans setting up the downfall of the Soviet Union. Like most Texans, let alone most Americans, I hadn’t heard of this interesting footnote in the Cold War. I can’t say how much is accurate and how much is Hollywood-ized, but it’s an intriguing story either way.

There are two noteworthy morals to this story. The first is that one man can truly make a difference. We see Charlie Wilson going from a womanizing, cocaine snorting shallow Congressman to a womanizing, cocaine snorting Congressman with a conscience. After seeing the plight of Afghani refugees in Pakistan, Wilson becomes determined to find them the means to battle the Soviets. He goes on a quest to find the money and CIA support to send them weaponry to shoot down helicopters and bust tanks. The result is a complex game of politics and negotiating that takes Wilson from the heart of Congress to the middle of an arms deal between Israel and Egypt. It’s truly remarkable how Wilson was able to work the system and how it was all kept relatively under the table.

The second moral of the story is that after we helped the Afghanis defeat the Soviets, we left them high and dry and allowed the Taliban to gain control of the country. In short, our neglect of Afghanistan contributed to the place becoming a haven for terrorists and, ultimately, the 9/11 attacks. It shows how when the United States chooses to do what’s convenient over what’s right it eventually comes back to bite us.

As you’ve come to expect, Tom Hanks delivers an excellent performance as Charlie Wilson. He’s played so many good guy roles lately that it’s a bit odd to see him doing drugs with naked strippers in a hot tub, but somehow he’s able to make it believable that he could be an unabashedly sinful Congressman. He also makes it believable that such a character could develop a soft spot for Afghani refugees. It’s a seamless transition that’s helped by Julia Roberts as Joanne Herring. Herring is a woman on a mission, no matter how controversial, and she’s more than willing to use her power and money to accomplish that mission. Roberts isn’t in the movie all that much, but she certainly plays a pivotal role. Philip Seymour Hoffman has a much more significant supporting role as Gust Avrakotos, Wilson’s CIA contact. He’s one of those fellows that speaks his mind and doesn’t care who he offends in the process. His teaming with Wilson is truly interesting – two otherwise unlikable fellows manage to compliment each other and accomplish the unthinkable.

If you like political films, historical dramas, or are a fan of Hanks, Roberts, or Hoffman, then “Charlie Wilson’s War” is a film you’re going to want to check out.

What the bonus features lack in quantity they make up for in quality. You’ll find your standard ‘making of’ featurette as well as a biography on the real Charlie Wilson. I found it particularly interesting to hear about the real man and actually see interviews with him. While the film seems to have exaggerated some aspects of the story, this featurette confirms a lot more of the more bizarre aspects of the story. This is required viewing after watching the film.