I really wasn’t interested in seeing this movie, and was pleasantly surprised. Tom Hanks stars as Charlie Wilson, the Texas congressman who is a boozing philanderer that finds himself swilling single malt scotch in a Vegas hot tub with strippers in 1979 watching an unshaven Dan Rather wearing a turban in Afghanistan. Dan is talking about fighting the Soviet Union’s sophisticated arms with antiquated weapons and the resulting slaughter of native peoples on the ground and how nobody in the US knows about it.
An agitated Charlie storms back to Washington and doubles the covert budget from $5 MM to $10 MM. That is the beginning of the movie. He then meets with the wealthy conservative Christian Texan Joanne Herring, played by Julia Roberts who supports the Afghan cause. He also meets firebrand CIA Afghan desk operative Gust Avrakotos, played superbly by Philip Seymour Hoffman. Other roles I enjoyed watching were Strategic Weapons Expert Mike Vickers played by Christopher Denham, and Charlie’s office gals, notably including Shiri Appleby from Roswell. The film is directed by Mike Nichols.
Charlie visits Afghanistan and is shocked by the appalling state of affairs there and the do nothing and make no waves attitudes at the US Embassy. The plot thickens as more countries who are typically sworn enemies become involved in the covert plot to arm the Afghan mujahedeen so they may shoot down Russian helicopters without US help being detected. Over the next 10 years the Russians are defeated by the mujahedeen as the covert budget grows to $2 billon dollars. Eventually the Berlin wall is taken down marking the end to the cold war. Who would have thought that this would be a feel good movie?
Between Hank’s and Hoffman’s acting and scenes in the Middle East that were also brilliantly cast, most notably Om Puri as President Zia, I was thoroughly entertained. The whole movie just flew by. But then I wondered at the truth of the whole thing. This all happened during the Reagan years. All I could think of was that this was another Iran-Contra plot and I assumed that Charlie Wilson was another Oliver North. This whole affair could have been planned by the staunchly conservative anti-communist Reagan administration. But, it seems that Charlie Wilson does exist, and has co-written a book, so does Joanne Herring and Gust Avrakotos (see photo above). Did Reagan know? I suppose we could ask Charlie.
The movie ends with Charlie being denied $1 MM to build a school in Afghanistan and noting in retrospect at a party that we fucked up the end game.
Here is the movie preview:
I give this movie
**** of five stars.