Charlie Wilson’s War (2007)


Tom Hanks, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julia Roberts

This film got a lot of hype upon its release (Julia Roberts did a whole Oprah Winfrey show about it) but seemingly no word of mouth. I don’t get why, because it’s a quality film. Apparently, the largest covert operation in U.S. history was begun by an unknown Congressman from a tiny district in Texas, spurred on by a wealthy Texas socialite, and enacted by a very pissed-off, very smart CIA guy.

Believe it or not (and I wouldn’t have believed it), the story is compelling and interesting. Hoffman as the CIA guy is truly fantastic here, managing to be likable despite an extremely abrasive personality. He’s so good at what he does that you come to admire him, even for his lack of social grace. His supporting-actor Oscar nomination was deserved.

Tom Hanks, too, does a very good job. I keep forgetting what a good actor he is.

What surprises me is how believable the main characters’ motivations are. We were so young when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, and not much was taught about it when we were in school. Someone says something that really opened my eyes, though: “Right now, there is one place in the entire world where people are actually fighting the Soviets, and it’s Afghanistan.” The idea that we could somehow secretly help the Afghans in this struggle would mean an actual (not Cold) war against them, even if publicly and diplomatically we had nothing to do with this war. There are some implied connections to the World Trade Center bombings in 2001, as well as what seems to be some commentary on what we need to do in Iraq, but I won’t spoil that stuff.

The toughest thing about the movie was following the dialogue. It’s very fast, very detailed, and sometimes very confusing. I frequently stepped back the DVD so I could hear some of it again. This would be a good one to watch with subtitles on.

Good flick all around. 7/10

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