Academy Award winners Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts and Philip Seymour Hoffman star in Charlie Wilson’s War, coming to DVD April 22, 2008 from Universal Studios Home Entertainment. Based on the outrageous true story about three unlikely heroes who join forces to lead the largest, most successful covert operation in history, this wickedly funny film is directed by Academy Award winner Mike Nichols. Emmy Award-winning screenwriter Aaron Sorkin brings George Crile’s best-selling book to the screen.
Charlie Wilson (Hanks) was a bachelor congressman from Texas whose “Good Time Charlie” exterior masked an extraordinary mind, a deep sense of patriotism and a passion for the underdog. In the early 1980s the underdog was Afghanistan – which had just been brutally invaded by the Russians. Charlie’s longtime friend, patron and sometime lover was Joanne Herring (Roberts), one of the wealthiest women in Texas and a virulent anti-communist. Believing the American response to the Russian invasion was anemic at best, she prodded Charlie into doing more for the Mujahideen (Afghan freedom fighters). Charlie’s partner in this uphill endeavor was CIA Agent Gust Avrakotos (Hoffman), a blue-collar operative in a company of Ivy League blue bloods. Together, the three of them – Charlie, Joanne and Gust – traveled the world to form unlikely alliances among the Pakistanis, Israelis, Egyptians, arms dealers, law makers and a belly dancer. Their success was remarkable. Funding for covert operations against the Soviets went from $5 million to $1 billion annually. The Red Army retreated out of Afghanistan. When asked how a group of peasants was able to deliver such a decisive blow to the army of a superpower, Pakistani President Mohammad Zia ul-Haq responded simply, “Charlie did it.”
It is difficult to properly tell a roughly based true story about the predecessor to today’s American involvement overseas. You would have no choice but to use America’s golden boy Tom Hanks, and a “tell it like it is” guy like Philip Seymour Hoffman to efficiently make your point.
Everyone knows what is going on in the Middle East today. Does everyone know how it all started? This tale follows an alcoholic, womanizing congressman named Charlie Wilson from the status of barely known, all the way to making one of the largest differences in the Cold War. This was no small task to attempt on his own. He would need the help of Gust Avrakotos, a CIA “get it done whatever it takes” kind of guy. Julia Roberts is Tom Hanks long time flirty friend, and social supporter, who knows just enough about religion to grease the palms of anyone who stands in Charlie Wilson’s way to stopping the Soviets’ cause. There is a great moral to this movie that you don’t learn until the end, but it just goes to show that when you don’t see your job is done the whole way, it could come back to bite you where it hurts. The cast was exceptional, the plot once again hits close to home, and somehow they fit just the right amount of humor in between, to make you enjoy the rest. This film was 100 times better than director Mike Nichols last efforts on his 2004 tale, Closer.
Review by Charlie Giltenboth