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Charlie Wilson's War
And the Oscar goes to... "Charlie Wilson's War."
Charlie Wilson
Tom Hanks and Julia Robers Star in "Charlie Wilson's War".
OPENING WEEKEND: $45,000,000
DOMESTIC TOTAL: $220,000,000
OTHER PREVIEWS: Alatriste (7/10)
  This Film is NOT a Future Release.
  The Following Preview has been Archived.

October 8th, 2007: Charlie Wilson's War is the story of how a drunken womanizer from east Texas changed the world. Wilson (Tom Hanks) was a junior representative in Congress who, through his tireless work in the 1980's, managed to divert billions of tax payer's dollars to fund the insurgency in Afghanistan against Soviet occupation. When he first started in the early 80's only a few million dollars went to Afghanistan, however by 1989 when the Russians finally withdrew, Wilson had raised that number to close to a billion. Wilson used the money to buy weapons and, with the help of a rogue CIA agent, smuggled them to the Mujahideen. When the Soviets withdrew in 1989, their military was thoroughly defeated and the USSR was almost bankrupt. However, those same insurgents who were armed and trained through Wilson's programs came to form the backbone of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban and are now sworn enemies of the US.

What to Expect: As I look at the movie landscape for the upcoming year, I find myself cringing in disappointment. It is like every film that is coming out is overly political and depressing. Somehow Hollywood has decided that going to the movies should no longer be fun or entertaining, instead it should be a platform for some directors to berate us about how America is destroying the world. Someone needs to remind these people that at the end of the day they are not making movies for themselves, but for us, and who better to remind them of this fact than Tom Hanks and Mike Nichols. Even thought the story is of how Americans trained the Taliban and Al Qaeda in the 1980's, the two still made an extremely entertaining, witty and light hearted movie that delivers its message in a very subtle and pleasant way. Instead of making us hate our government, the movie points out that when it comes to world politics, nothing is truly black and white, but mostly gray. Now, let me tell you what separates this movie from the rest.

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The movie is actually based on the 2003 non-fiction book of the same name by renowned 60 Minutes journalist, George Crile. The story really gives creditability to that old saying "fact is stranger than fiction". It describes the efforts of House of Representatives Congressman, Charles Wilson, to supply and fund the Mujahideen who were fighting to liberate Afghanistan from Soviet occupation. Crile actually credits Wilson as the man who single handedly won the Cold War. Now, I think this is a bit of stretch, but he definitely did his part. Through a lot of back door deals on the Senate floor and in a variety of Foreign Embassies, Wilson was able to raise billions of dollars, line up friendly countries to assist in training and then, with the help of CIA agent Gust Avrakotos, smuggled the weapons into Afghanistan on the back of mules through Pakistan. They brought in everything: automatic weapons, explosives, antitank guns, even satellite intelligence maps redrawn in the form of crude maps that might have been penned by the mujahedeen themselves. That is a pretty cool story that would make a good movie, but what makes this movie great are the actual characters involved. First of all, Wilson was by no means a good person. He was actually a borderline alcoholic and a huge womanizer. All of his assistants were beautiful women, former beauty queens and were known around Washington as "Charlie's Angels." He traveled only first class on the tax payers tab with a huge entourage and was known to party everywhere he went. On one occasion, he even brought a belly dancer from Texas to the Egyptian embassy to entertain the Egyptian minister of defense. The belly dancer was nothing more than a stripper who went far and beyond anything that the Egyptians had seen, but everyone enjoyed themselves and he was able to enlist their help. In addition to all his faults, he was also a shrewd and sometimes dishonest politician. He was able to secure most of his funding through back room deals with other senators that involved kick backs to their respective constitutes. Avrakotos was also a terrible person, even for a spook. The man had problems with authority and was prone to temper tantrums. He did not worry about diplomacy and dismissed the greater danger of pulling the U.S. into a larger confrontation with the USSR. His cocky and reckless approach ended up prevailing, but could have ended in disaster. And there is the beauty of the entire story. A bunch of shady people, doing amoral things for a greater good, and although their actions liberated a country from a ruthless and unjust occupation, it also unintentionally created an even greater evil in the form of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

I am not the only one who fell in love with this story. Aaron Sorkin of West Wing fame became obsessed with it even before the book came out. As he put it, "The two greatest threats we've faced are the spread of Soviet Communism and Islamic fanaticism, here's a guy who had a hand in ending one and accidentally starting the other." Sorkin transformed an already funny story into a hilarious script by infusing it with his signature quick witted, to the point dialogue that worked so well for him in the West Wing and A Few Good Men. Hanks, on the other hand, waited for the book to come out before he jumped on board and decided to both star in and produce the project. Wilson will definitely be very different from Hanks' usual rolls, where he plays nice, immaculate guys, but that is actually one of the things that drew him to it. He really felt that Wilson's character flaws were really what made him so damn interesting. As Hanks put it, "Imagine how this big, tall, handsome, whiskey-swilling man surrounded by a bunch of bimbos and who had his own belly dancer traveling with him was responsible for the biggest jihad in modern history." What makes Hanks such a great actor is his ability to really understand the character he is playing and then make the audience really understand and relate to that character. I am fairly certain that he will have the audience cheering for Wilson in no time, despite the Congressman's shortcomings.

To round out the cast, Hanks recruited Oscar winners Philip Seymour Hoffman to play CIA agent Avrakotos and Julia Roberts to be Joanne Herring. Hoffman is a terrific choice; he even looks like a rogue CIA agent. Julia Roberts will also be pretty good in this movie, even though her screen time is limited. Maybe that's not such a bad thing, since she has not acted in a movie for the last two years when she became a mother. This will be an easy gig for her since her character is basically a rich, amoral Erin Brockovich. If nothing else, Roberts' huge fan base will turn out in droves for this film. I am sure all three will do a great job and remind us why they have so many Oscars between them.

In Conclusion: This movie has something for everyone. It has a very serious message, as it examines the political quagmire in Afghanistan and the routes of global terror, but at the same time, it has so much fun reveling that message that you forget you are even watching a political thriller. It stars arguably the best male actor in Hanks, the best female actor in Roberts and probably the best supporting actor in Hoffman. This movie spans so many genres and appeals to such a huge variety of people that it just has no choice but to make a ton of money and win a lot of awards. It is one of those rare great movies; make sure you do not miss it!

Similar Titles: Forrest Gump, Lawrence of Arabia
December 21st, 2007 (wide)
April 22nd, 2008 (DVD)

Universal Pictures

Mike Nichols

Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, Om Puri, Jud Tylor, Nazanin Boniadi

Total: 101 vote(s).


Click here to view site

Rated R for strong language, nudity/sexual content and some drug use.

97 min




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