Charlie Wilson's War

  • 2008-02-06
  • By Adam Krowka

HE'S NO JAMES BOND: Moved by the site of a refugeee camp, Wilson starts his Cold War campaign.

Director: Mike Nichols

If you are looking for a geeky, thought-provoking, political science film to indulge over the weekend, you will find everything you need in "Charlie Wilson's War." Based on a true story about the covert war in Afghanistan between the U.S. and Soviet Union during the 1980s, the film boasts a talented cast and a rich comedic dialogue.

Tom Hanks flawlessly plays smooth-talking and boozing U.S. congressman Charlie Wilson. The opening scene at a CIA awards ceremony is a bit cheesy and emotional; however don't dump out your popcorn just yet. A womanizing whiskey-drinker (characteristic of many U.S. representatives), Wilson is nonetheless fully dedicated to his job and the constitutional ideals behind it.
After becoming aware of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Wilson uses the power of his seat on the Defense Council to double the meager CIA budget for assisting the Afghani forces. He becomes increasingly drawn into the conflict, encouraged by wealthy Texan Joanne Herring (Julia Roberts). Using his unique place at the crossroads of Congress, the U.S. State Department and CIA, Wilson goes off to take on the Soviet Union and save some Afghans.

He embarks on a trip to the region to meet with high-profile leaders in Pakistan. The script does well in bringing to light the paradox of U.S. involvement in other countries, voicing complaints of half-hearted funding and contradictory policies. Wilson then agrees to tour a refugee camp on the Pakistani border.
The scene quite accurately and movingly portrays the horrible sights and stories which can be found in such locations. Nichols is also merciless in his account of Soviet atrocities during their occupation and uses actual footage from the period to illustrate this.

The script is fantastic in its political detail and use of statistics. At the same time, the dialogue is witty and lively thanks to Wilson's charismatic personality and his nature as a politician. Clever camera work also deals nicely with the thick content of the story and its many political intricacies.
Nichols also criticizes U.S. policy in Afghanistan following the Soviet pull-out and its terrible implications today. More attention and a deeper look at these connections might have benefited the film, but on balance it was a good decision to focus on the film's specific historical period.

The film provides a brilliant portrayal of America's Cold War, "Lawrence of Arabia," and the complex and often contradictory role which U.S. agencies play in the international sphere.

Now showing in Estonia. Opens Feb. 15 in Latvia and Feb. 8 in Lithuania

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