Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Charlie Wilson's War

I was not hugely interested in seeing this movie. First, it has the over-rated, annoying Tom Hanks starring in it. Second, it continues the vast wing conspiracy to pass Julia Roberts off as attractive. Third, it is a history based flick about events that somewhat revise what happened. However, traffic considerations and free popcorn at Regal conspired to lure me in. Well, that and withdrawals...I had not seen a flick this year.

It started poorly. Lots of drugs and strippers which Congressman Charlie Wilson (Tom Hanks) somehow is uninterested in while being fascinated by a televised report on Afghanistan by Tom Brokaw. If he was indeed the drunken lecher portrayed in this movie that is internally inconsistent. Of course we as movie viewers know it is poetic license to show both sides of his personality but still it set my teeth on edge.

Enter Gust Avrakotos (Philip Seymour Hoffman), the CIA guy whose career is being crushed by his new superior. We first meet Gust having an expository yet hilarious blow-up with his boss. As a result he ends up on the Afghanistan desk.

Enter Texas wealthy woman Joanne Herring (Julia Roberts). She summons Wilson to a party she is having to raise awareness of the plight of Afghanistan, manipulates him into going to Pakistan to meet their president who convinces him to view an Afghan refugee camp. This gives Wilson motivation to help the Afghan rebels.

When he discovers the U.S. officials on the ground in Afghanistan don't care he heads home, demands and appointment with the CIA and meets Gust. Together with the influence of Herring they gain funding for the rebels, put together an unlikely coalition of Israel, Egypt, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia to change the money to guns and transport them to Afghanistan. With that weaponry the rebels drive the Soviets out of Afghanistan.

At the celebration party there is perhaps the greatest moment in the movie. Gust is trying to convince Wilson to maintain funding to Afghanistan, now for schools, hospitals, and infrastructure. When Wilson seems more interested in returning to the party he says "You need to listen to what I am saying to you." and then pauses as the sound of airplanes drones off behind them.

You are intended to connect the dots. The angry orphans of Afghanistan became the foot soldiers of Al Quaeda who flew planes into the World Trade Center. In that way the film seems to be arguing our job in Iraq is to make sure the infrastructure is rebuilt in Iraq before we leave...that they have schools, roads, hospitals, jobs...that they know we were their friends when Hussein was killing his enemies at will. Will people make that connection? I doubt it. Too many people have a blind, unreasoning hatred of Bush and anything he does they will critique and take the opposite stance regardless of what makes sense. At the same time, the U.S. has repeatedly shown we have no clue how to deal with Middle East politics.

The movie was surprisingly entertaining. Seymour stole the show with his quips and one liners (in response to a question about Afghan policy he replies, "Well, strictly speaking we don't have one. But we're working on it." "Who are?" "Me and three other guys." His droll delivery turns it into a hysterical moment and he does so many other times throughout the movie.

The sly references to Wilson's attractive and provocatively dressed female staff as "jail bait" also receives a chuckle.

Really, the movie only leaves one question up in the air: able to choose between Bonnie Bach (Amy Adams), "Charlie's Angels" (Wynn Everett, Mary Bonner Baker, Rachel Nichols and Shiri Appleby), and Herring (Julia Roberts), who in their right mind would pick Roberts? It is obvious Wilson was near-sighted...


Al said...

Free popcorn and traffic and you'll watch anything...ouch! Especially with the Veggie Tales movie coming out this Friday if you just waited..

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Anonymous said...

Shiri Appleby all the way. That’s a no-brainer in my opinion anyway