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Laramie Movie Scope:
Charlie Wilson's War

A reluctant hero

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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January 8, 2008 -- Tom Hanks stars in this based-on-fact film about an obscure Congressman who helped to bring down the mighty Soviet empire with a few billion dollars worth of weapons. He helped arrange the purchase of the weapons and their transport to Afghanistan through Israel, Egypt and Pakistan. It was a covert operation which was far more extensive than anything undertaken by the United States previously.

This fascinating and entertaining film shows how a remarkable group of people who came together to help the Afghani people fight off the mighty Soviet army. They did that by providing the Afghani fighters with modern, high-tech weapons needed to overcome Soviet air superiority in the war, namely compact ground-to-air missiles that could be operated by one man. Hanks plays Texas politician Charlie Wilson, who is persuaded to action by wealthy Texas activist Joanne Herring (Julia Roberts of “Ocean's 12”). Wilson is reluctant to get involved in the Afghanistan war, but once he decides to act, he gets the job done, aided by a caustic CIA operative, Gust Avrakotos (Philip Seymour Hoffman of “Capote”), Wilson's assistant, Bonnie Bach (Amy Adams of “Enchanted”) and committee chairman Doc Long (veteran actor Ned Beatty of “Cookie's Fortune”).

Known as “Good Time Charlie” for his love of parties, drinking and carousing, Wilson, a Democrat from Texas, was one of the most liberal members of Congress, being pro-choice on abortions, favoring the Equal Rights Amendment, favoring increases in the minimum wage, favoring increases in Medicaid benefits and favoring more regulation of utilities. That such a man, and not the sainted Ronald Reagan, was responsible for the collapse of the mighty Soviet empire, must really stick in the craw of conservatives (who would like us to believe that Ronald Reagan did it all himself, and was not the beneficiary of over 40 years of bipartisan efforts to counter the Soviet menace). At the end of the film, Charlie lobbies for post-war aid to Afghanistan, warning about the number of Islamic radicals pouring into the country. His pleas are ignored by the committee, leading to the Taliban takeover of the government, which later permitted Al-Quaida bases in Afghanistan, which led to the 9/11 attacks and the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

In the film, all of Charlie's female friends are beautiful and so is his all-female office staff (but they are efficient, too). One of his friends, a belly dancer, helps him set up an important arms meeting with Egyptian officials, and also provides the entertainment at the meeting. For such a serious subject, the film is surprisingly funny. It features great performances by the entire cast. This is not just an entertaining and informative film, it is also one of the year's best. This film rates a B+.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in video and/or DVD format, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2008 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)