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Charlie Wilson's War
5 reviews

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Movie Details

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Directed By
Mike Nichols

Written By:
Aaron Sorkin, George Crile

Cast:
Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Amy Adams, Emily Blunt, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rachel Nichols, Shiri Appleby, Ned Beatty, Erick Avari, Mayte Garcia, John Slattery, Jud Tylor, Shaun Toub, Om Puri, Faran Tahir, Lorna Scott, Cyia Batten, P.J. Byrne, Takayo Fischer, Ron Fassler, Jackie Swanson, Brian Markinson, Nathalie Walker, Spencer Garrett, Kevin Cooney, Anthony Azizi, Celestina, Pavel Lychnikoff, Peter Gerety, Navid Negahban, Ilia Volokh, Wali Razaqi, Yousuf Azami, Michael McCafferty, Geoffrey Gould, Sam Sako, Anthony Martins, Cassidy Smith, Tommy Wilson-O'Brien, John Robert, Adam Meir, Walter Delmar, William Tempel, Maulik Pancholy, Christopher Denham, Russell Edge, Audrey Alison, Wynn Everett, Tracy Thorpe, Nazanin Boniadi, Daston Kalili, Mary Bonner Baker, Luke Van Pelt, Mozhan Marn˛, Sammy Sheik, Michael Spellman, Jon Donahue, David Mehl, Kelly Ryan, Franšois Duhamel, Tom Ohmer, Dawson Van Pelt, Mary Linda Phillips, Mary Page Keller, Hilary Angelo, Carly Reeves, Alexandra Rieger, Dorothy Macdonald, Kara Clem, Soraya Omar, Mary Linda Phillips, Igor Korosec, Cynthia Silver, Rachel Style, Tricia Rockman, Jody Jaress, David Schroeder, David Newham, Paul Bartholomew, Alexander Lvovsky, Mallory Jameson, Edward Hunt, Teresa Swift, Daniel Findlay, Rizwan Manji, Ambria Miscia, Ashkan Kashanchi, Ron Ostrow, Mehrdad Sarlak, Moneer Yaqubi, Jehangir Behzadizadeh

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Charlie Wilson's War (2007)
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Movie Review by Jarrod
December 22nd, 2007

The amazing story of Charlie Wilson was captured in a bestselling book by George Crile, and has now been adapted by Aaron Sorkin, creator of The West Wing. Wilson is not a well-known historical figure, but played a crucial role in ending the Cold War, perhaps doing more even than Reagan, who is often credited, sometimes exclusively, with bringing about the downfall of the Soviet Union, even at the expense of Gorbachev, John Paul II, and individual Eastern European leaders and thinkers like Lech Walesa and Vaclav Havel. Wilson's contribution was fairly simple, he helped to organize a covert operation in Afghanistan, following the Soviet invasion of that country in 1979. The United States would secretly assist the Afghan rebels in their efforts against the Soviet army. Muslim warriors (including Bin Laden), flocked to Afghanistan, hoping to liberate it. The ramifications of this conflict were immense. On the one hand, it drained the Soviet economy as it turned into an unwinnable quagmire, much like what happened with the French in Algeria and currently with the Americans in Iraq.

The Soviet economy was already fragile, and the USSR could not compete with the United States in the arms race, on defense spending, nor could it feed its own population, and it was starting to lose its grip on defiant nations like Poland and Czechoslovakia, with its military bogged down near Kabul. Another unforeseen consequence was the nurturing of radical Islamic sentiment, a confidence that propelled Bin Laden and others to use the same tactics that seemingly proved successful against the Soviets to force other Western and European powers out of the Middle East, and maybe to strike at Israel, the sworn enemy of the Arab world. The Taliban took over Afghanistan after the Soviet withdrawal, and established an oppressive theocracy, hostile to the West. The U.S. has since toppled the Taliban, its first target after 9/11, and expanded its war on terror into Iraq, which many Muslims see as a repeat of what the Soviets did in 1979, by invading Afghanistan. The irony of all of this is that the United States supplied Bin Laden with weapons, cultivated him as an ally, as part of Cold War rivalry. The same thing happened with Saddam Hussein, during his war against Iran.

Most remarkable is that Wilson (Hanks), a congressman from Texas, had a reputation as a womanizer and boozehound. He was an unlikely candidate for such a foreign policy and intelligence undertaking, but surprised everyone, including himself with just how well it succeeded. Charlie is persuaded to take up the Afghan cause by Joanne Herring (Roberts), a far-right Houston socialite with connections abroad. Charlie also wants to achieve something significant in his career, which was not particularly distinguishable up to that point. He forms a partnership with Gust Avrakotos (Hoffman), a CIA official who is more than eager to launch an intervention in Afghanistan, but finds few congressmen to support the endeavor, except for Charlie, and his new found anti-Communist activism. The two of them engage in humorous repartee, but make a good team. Amy Adams is Bonnie, Charlie's dedicated assistant. Charlie meets with Pakistani dictator General Zia, and the scheme devised by him and by Gust involves smuggling Israeli weapons through Pakistan, which would find their way into the hands of the Afghan insurgents. There can be no visible American involvement.

If anything, the movie is a showcase for great performances, from Hanks, and especially Hoffman, who has had a remarkable year, with The Savages, and Before the Devil Knows You're Dead. Roberts seems miscast, and is largely forgettable. Adams is a delight, and isn't used enough. Sorkin's screenplay crackles with consistently funny and smart dialogue. One could describe it as comedy interspersed with drama, but the opposite would also be true, it alternates successfully between both. A separate film could (and should) be made about the experience of the Afghans themselves, and those Muslims who fought on their behalf, as they are not given much attention here. This is Hanks's best work since Catch Me If You Can. Nichols is in fine form, in what is his first project since Closer back in 2004.

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