Charlie Wilson’s War

Charlie Wilson’s War is a rare thing–a funny political film, a sexy

history lesson. Director Mike Nichols brings a light comic touch to the

story of the Democratic Texas Congressman (Tom Hanks) with a thing for

the ladies and a soft spot for the Mujahideen in Afghanistan. Julia

Roberts plays the wealthy conservative socialite who convinces Wilson

to orchestrate the covert diversion of hundreds of millions of dollars

to the Afghan rebels in the years following the Soviet invasion in

1979. Neither Hanks nor Roberts is particularly convincing as a Texas

politico, but that’s OK. The film crackles whenever Philip Seymour

Hoffman, playing CIA agent Gust Avrakotos, comes on screen, ripping

mischievously through his sardonic dialogue and bringing everyone

else’s game up a notch. Adapted from a book by the late George Crile,

Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay strongly suggests that

the Congressional failure to help rebuild Afghanistan’s decimated

post-war infrastructure helped make that country an eventual hotbed of

terrorist activity. But what sticks is the criticism of U.S. politics

as essentially a popularity contest, driven by friendships, favors, and

fickle public opinion–a system prone to leave jobs unfinished as they

become unfashionable. B Originally published in the White Plains Times.

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