Charlie Wilson’s War: amazing story, pretty good film

Charlie Wilson's War - a true story
A wild, wacky but true story of an outrageous character who changed the course of the world. A screenplay by The West Wing maestro Aaron Sorkin. An all-star cast which is also an all-talented cast including the likes of Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Those should be the making of an amazing film. And they nearly are. Nearly, but not quite.

Charlie Wilson’s War is the real life story of how an undistinguished American congressman found a purpose to his political career beyond enjoying the drink, drugs and women – helping the Afghan opposition to the then occupying Soviet military forces. What started as a relatively small $5 million increase in US covert funding for the Afghan opposition spiralled over time into a multi-billion dollar operation.

Tempting as it is to exaggerate the impact of any one person when retelling part of history, in this case most of that change in support for the Afghan opposition – and the huge influence it had on defeating the Soviet military – does indeed seem to be down to Charlie Wilson.

The real man himself features in two fascinating extras on the DVD and in the actual film is portrayed skillfully by Tom Hanks. Many of the other performances are also fine, and the script sizzles at times with Sorkin’s trademark intense verbal wit. But the film also has its flaws, such as the uneven interweaving of at times surprisingly amateurish looking attempted footage of war scenes.

So a very enjoyable film about a fascinating example of a politician finding a way to use a relative humble position in the political pecking order to change the world – but not quite the all-time classic movie its ingredients gave hope for.

One annoyance about the DVD – it comes with an enforced, non-skippable, four minute long advert at the start. The advert is for a good cause (UNICEF) but even so, it’s a long sequence to be forced to watch.

Charlie Wilson’s War: trailer

If you like this, you might also be interested in Spy Game.

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Buy Charlie Wilson’s War here.

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