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Charlie Wilson's War Review

If Tom Hanks isn't learning how to speak Bulgarian (Terminal, 2000) or learning how to spear fish or build a raft from trees and branches (Cast Away, 2000), he is learning to speak with a heavy Texas drawl. Charlie Wilson, Congressman of the Texas State 2nd Congressional District (1973 - 1996) is played with the proper suave and nonchalance by Academy Award winner, Tom Hanks, who makes Charlie Wilson's Good-Time Charlie persona look as smooth as if he's just stepped out of the rich and decadent 1930s.

Congressman Charlie Wilson is approached in 1980 by steamy and sexy, highly educated and articulate Joanne Herring, "the sixth wealthiest woman in Texas," to use his influence ("You sit at the intersection of the State Department, the Pentagon and the CIA, the three agencies you would need to conduct a covert war." ) Julia Roberts as Joanne Herring) to attain funding for financing the Afghanistan's war to oust the invading Russians. Pakistan is concerned in the matter because of reasons that included Afghan refugees in camps on the Pakistan side of the Afghan-Pakistan border.

Charlie Wilson and a nonconformist CIA operative named Gust Avrakotos took it upon themselves to establish a CIA strategy for Afghanistan. (Charlie W: What is U.S. strategy in Afghanistan? Gust A:Well, strictly speaking, we don't have one, but we're working hard on that. Charlie W: Who's we? Gust A: Me and three other guys.) As a result of the covert mechanizations of Wilson, Herring and Avrakotos, the Afghanistan budget climbed from about #30 million a year in 1980 to $630 million in 1987. The Russians were defeated and left Afghanistan.

The acting is Charlie Wilson's is as well orchestrated as a symphony with elegant movements and plenty of dissonance. Tom Hanks is once again flawless, convincing and charmingly winning. His performance won him a 2008 Golden Globe nomination. Amy Adams plays Wilson's Administrative Assistant, Bonnie Bach, and as such fits quietly, but excellently, in the background. Julia Roberts makes the perfect wealthy intellectual, religiously motivated Texas powerhouse who holds up her convictions like banners.

Charlie Wilson's War is based on the book by George Crile, Charlie Wilson's War: The Story of How the Wildest Man in Washington and a Rouge CIA Agent Changed the History of Our Times (who says titles need to be short...). Crile's book was made into a Aaron Sorkin, author of 155 episodes of TV's West Wing. It is directed by Mike Nichols who previously directed Closer (2004) with Natalie Portman, Jude law, Julia Roberts and Clive Owen. Victor Kempster is notable for his production design of varied settings that all work together despite their huge differences. Often when settings are as varied as these are, the production designer fails, unlike Kempster, to develop a unifying coordination between them.

Charlie Wilson's War is rated R and it is a rating that needs to be honored, but for adults who don't mind situations of lax morality, it is definitely worth seeing as an excellent cinematic production and as an entertaining, but no less enlightening, slice of near and relevant history.


Director - Mike Nichols (2007)
Book Writer - George Crile
Film writer - Aaron Sorkin
Tom Hanks - Charlie Wilson
Amy Adams - Bonnie Bach
Julia Roberts -Joanne Herring
Philip Seymour Hoffman - Gust Avrakotos
Locations - Southern California and Morocco


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Charlie Wilson's War: The Extraordinary Story of How the Wildest Man in Congress and a Rogue CIA Agent Changed the History of Our Times Book Written by George Crile Available from Amazon

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