Warning! Definitely contains spoilers!
The scariest people in the world to me are not terrorists, but the ones sitting in rooms in Washington, deciding how the world should be run. These are the men and women who depose and invade and sell arms and generally ruin one country after another. Just ask Chile, Columbia, Iraq, Vietnam, or the star of the movie in question, Afghanistan.
Charlie Wilson's War is the true-life story of how congressman Charlie Wilson (an excellent Tom Hanks), heretofore a womanizing liberal on the verge of a cocaine scandal, makes it his personal mission after some, er, coaxing from born-again, anti-communist socialite Joanne Herring (Julia Roberts, also quite good), to rid Afghanistan of warring Soviet commies.
Those with a cursory knowledge of recent Afghan history (like me) know that the U.S.S.R. lost its war with Afghanistan, and that its withdrawal left the country chaotic and wide open for the Taliban to seize power. It was also wide open for the U.S. to swoop in like heroes and rebuild. Where were the freedom spreaders when the fighting ended? Well, that is Charlie Wilson's legacy, if not his vision. The film, the wonderful, humorous and horrifying work of Mike Nichols, tells the story of how Wilson won funding and weapons for the Afghan people, who in turn won their battle.
The acting is unimpeachable (well, except maybe for Hank's Texas accent), particularly scenes with Hanks and Philip Seymour Hoffman, who plays CIA sidekick Gust Avrokotos in an unforgettable performance. Together they hatch the plan to save Afghanistan, but only Avrokotos foresees what the aftermath will be.
The script of Charlie Wilson's war is witty and impeccable. Laughs abound, but you'll be sick inside, knowing what happened in the ensuing two decades. To me, that's the genius of the film. Wilson is portrayed as a charming, hard-drinking ladies man who addresses his team of sexy interns and secretaries as "jail bait." The tone of the movie is lighthearted and carefree, punctuated with moments of gravity, none more poignant than when Wilson tries to secure funds for rebuilding. "No one gives a shit about a school in Pakistan," argues a fellow congressman. "Afghanistan," corrects Wilson, in a harsh lesson about where the priorities of U.S. foreign policy lie.
Oh, how history repeats itself. Are you watching, George W. Bush?
This film earns an official McBone Must-See.
Nate's McBone rating: 4.5 McBones.
PS: Don't hate me, Craig. I know how you feel about Tom "Wanks."
PPS: Hoffman's moustache, while superb, is under investigation by the NOML as a possible fake.