"These things happened. They were glorious and they changed
the world... and then we fucked up the endgame" - Charlie Wilson
Charlie Wilson's War
is the 2007 biopic
based upon U.S Congressman Charlie Wilson
his assistance to the Mujahideen
in their fight against the Soviet Union
has invaded the country of Afghanistan
. The film stars Tom Hanks
indulgent and lewd Texan, Charlie Wilson. Charlie is portrayed as a sleazy and
lustful partier, with scenes involving sex, hot tubs, and cocaine to name a
few. Opposite to Charlie is Joanne Herring
, played by Julia Roberts
as a lavish
and quick-witted love interest to Charlie, and is described as the "6th
richest women in Texas.” And co-starring is Phillip Seymour Hoffman
, a hot-headed and cynical CIA
agent who supports Charlie in his
attempt to support the Mujahideen. Gust provides comic relief as a blunt and
vulgar motor-mouth who always speaks his mind.
The film begins with a quick
peek into Charlie's personal life. He is seen lounging around a hot-tub with
numerous topless women, drinking away. On the television is a report by Dan
, who is reporting from Afghanistan, and it marks the start of Charlie's
interest in the Mujahideen war. From that point, the film follows
Charlie’s efforts in the Soviet-Afghan war, which sadly, is a greypoint
history for many Americans. From the start, the plot moves rather quickly, and
it avoids dragging as experienced by so many other historical biographies
is engaging, and scenes are peppered with witty dialogue and memorable
one-liners from a cast of diverse personalities.
The dialogue is written with a
certain political savvy that is rarely captured in this caliber in political
movies. Many times, I found myself laughing at Phillip Seymour Hoffman's
political rants about his colleagues, but at the same time being entirely
impressed with his seemingly overwhelming knowledge of foreign affairs
that's because Harold Holt is a tool. He's a cake-eater, he's a clown, he's a
bad station chief, and I don't like to cast aspersions on a guy, but he's going
to get us all killed." - Gust
between characters is genuinely felt, most notably between Joanne (Julia
Roberts) and Charlie (Tom Hanks). Their love affair plays out right in front of
us in the form of amusing quarrels and playful banter, and although there are
no sex scenes between the two, it is hinted at throughout the movie.
- Charlie: I'm a liberal.
- Joanne: *grabs butt* Not where it counts.
One memorable scene between the
two, and one which really shows Julia Roberts' pure talent as an actress, shows
a close-up of Joanne meticulously plucking her eyebrows with a pin whilst
simultaneously giving an intelligible speech about the war. It is memorable
scenes like this where the clever dialogue really shines, and the two's screen
time together is wholly cherished.
The real standout character is this
movie is Phillip Seymour Hoffman, who was nominated for an Academy Award
his performance. His performance, from his first argument with a higher-up to
his last story of the Zen
master, is an absolute gem to watch.
Avrakotos: Yeah you're fucking Roger's fiance,
and you know I know.
- Cravely: I'm not... I'm not... I'm not even gonna dignify that with a response.
- Gust Avrakotos: Yeah yeah, you're dignifying her in the ass, at the Jefferson Hotel, Room 1210, but let me ask you, the 3000 agents Turner fired, was that because they lacked diplomatic skills as well?
Because his character is
such a likable one, I felt like he didn’t have enough screen time, and left the
movie wanting more of him.
The directing in this movie
from Mike Nichols
, who's repertoire include The Graduate
Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
, are up to the standard of this legendary
director. Nichols creatively incorporates real-life footage from the
Soviet-Afghan war into the film, and does so in a natural and flowing manner.
The scenes involving an Afghan refugee camp are emotionally invoking without
showing too much as to be exploitive. The portrayal of the Mujahideen is
sympathetic, and on the counter, the portrayal of the Soviets is hard and
barbarous. Although much is to be said about the directing, where this film
really shines is in the writing. Aaron Sorkin
, who is no stranger to political
movies (A Few Good Men
and The American President
), does an
exceptional job on creating an interesting yet historically accurate narrative
that also is genuinely funny and a joy to watch.
Towards the end of the movie,
there's an exchange between Gust and Charlie which stands as a clever
connotation to the parallels between the Soviet-Afghan war and the September 11
- Gust Avrakotos: There's a little boy and on his 14th birthday he gets a horse... and everybody in the village says, "how wonderful. The boy got a horse" And the Zen master says, "we'll see." Two years later, the boy falls off the horse, breaks his leg, and everyone in the village says, "How terrible." And the Zen master says, "We'll see." Then, a war breaks out and all the young men have to go off and fight... except the boy can't cause his legs all messed up. and everybody in the village says, "How wonderful."
- Charlie Wilson: Now the Zen master says, "We'll see."
In reality, among the Afghans
that fought against the Soviet Union was a young Osama Bin Laden
, who later
, the terrorist group responsible for the September 11 attacks.
There is no direct mention of the unintended consequences
of America's aid to
the Mujahideen in the movie, and because of this there is no dilution of the
accomplishments achieved by Charlie and various other characters in this film.
And although this film points out some issues and corruption in the government in
that era, it is deeply patriotic, which I view as a rare but appreciated
quality in current political films.
In the end, Charlie Wilson's
stands on its own, not only as a biopic of a great man, but as a drama
and a comedy that is politically intelligent and witty in the same instance.
"Without Charlie, history would be hugely, and sadly