Thursday, May 01, 2008

Charlie Wilson's War -- DVD Review


As is my custom, I rarely get to the movies before they come out on DVD, and such is the case with the Tom Hanks flick -- Charlie Wilson's War. The movie, as the opening lines let us know, is based on a true story, which means that parts of it are created (a historical novel if you will). But the part played by Texas Democratic Congressman Charles Wilson (D-TX, 2nd District, retired) is not fiction. He was a primary player in getting the US government to fund a CIA supported effort by the Mujaheddin to run the Soviet's out of Afghanistan. Wilson is portrayed as a fun-loving, womanizing bachelor (and from his Wikipedia posting, much of that is apparently true). A liberal (by Texas standards) he was also strongly anti-Communist. Those views led to his support not only of the Mujaheddin, but also Somoza.

The movie itself is a fairly brief, briskly paced film, that focuses on Wilson's introduction to the Afghan situation, a visit to Pakistan where he met President Zia and at least in the film -- Afghan camps at Peshawar. This led to his embrace of the calling and to a partnership with CIA operative Gust Avrakotos (Philip Seymour Hoffman) to funnel arms to the Afghan rebels. He was able to do this because of his membership on the House Appropriations Subcommittee for Defense, a post that allowed him to increase the CIA's covert budget through the use of "Black appropriations," essentially sight unseen appropriations.


In the movie Wilson is aided in his efforts by a wealthy conservative "Christian" woman named Joanne Herring, who drums up support for the Afghan cause (Julia Roberts). In the movie, she and Wilson are lovers.

Well, you know the rest of the story -- the Mujaheddin run the Soviet's out using American paid for arms (though always done covertly). It was a success, sort of, because the story doesn't end there.

The movie ends with Wilson seeking $1 million dollars to build schools in Afghanistan, but by that time everyone had moved on. But we know the rest of the story. The Taliban moved in and a radicalized form of Islam took root, giving a home base for Osama Bin Laden -- who you might remember is still at large after launching the 9-11 attacks.

It's not a movie for the kiddies. There's some brief nudity, drug use, and the usual R-rated language. That said, it's a window into the sometimes gray areas of American foreign policy, where cloak and dagger are prominent. It's a reminder that even the best intentions can go awry, and that you have to be aware of what you might be unleashing.

So a thumbs up!

1 comment:

Mike L. said...

I really enjoyed the movie too. It was a nice combination of entertainment and message. Great characters!