Charlie Wilson's War (2007)

Want to know why the national deficit of the US is so high? Look no further than Charlie Wilson's War which stars Julia Roberts, Tom Hanks and Philip Seymour Hoffman.

This film is the story of how a congressman from Texas, Charlie Wilson (Hanks), aided by a Texas socialite (Roberts) were able to fund a war in Afghanistan. This Charlie Wilson was hardly a model public servant as he owes everyone a favor, and hardly keeps a low profile with the ladies. It comes to his attention in 1980 that the Soviets had invaded Afghanistan, and the atrocities they were committing forced many to flee to neighboring countries like Pakistan. By equipping the resistance with the latest in weapons, the Afghanis were able to turn this into "Russia's Vietnam," as Stinger shoulder fired missiles took down the Russian helicopters. In order to buy this technology, Wilson took the budget for clandestine operations from $5 million to $500 million. Hoffman plays Gust Avrakotos, a disgruntled CIA agent who is finally getting a chance to help kill some Russians. Eventually, the Russians retreated, and the film mentions how "we screwed it up in the end."

While I'm generally a big fan of highlighting obscure history, Charlie Wilson's War just didn't do it for me. Maybe it was because Wilson has too many flaws to be a hero as he incessantly throws money on a problem he barely understands. Hanks does a good job of portraying this flawed congressman, but by the end, you hardly think he should be getting an award for anything, and you wonder where the White House was in any of this as a Congressional committee ratchets up the spending into the stratosphere.

My other problem is that this film really doesn't give enough background history. I would venture to say that not too many Americans were aware of what was going on in Afghanistan in 1980, and even less recall it. The film needed to do a better job reminding us that this was less than a decade after the end of Vietnam, the bungled Iran hostage rescue was even more recent and Americans would not have supported troops in Afghanistan. While arming the resistance was a reasonable option at the time, the film does not mention that at least some of those same weapons we supplied were used against American troops when we invaded for the War on Terror and had to be bought back(which makes this taxpayer think that we should be very careful who we hand out our missiles to).

This film ends by saying we didn't do enough. I'm not sure anyone in the 80's could have foreseen the Taliban coming to power in Afghanistan, or what else we were supposed to do. I'm also not sure what the implication is to the Iraq War- does the film suggest we should never leave or spend even more money? For this reviewer, raising questions without any answers made for an unsatisfying experience. Despite the star power, Charlie Wilson's War doesn't twinkle.

Overall Grade: C

Reviewed by Jonas

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