Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Charlie Wilson’s War


It’s hard to believe this is a true story, but it is. It’s a tragicomedy, telling the story of how one hard-partying congressman from Nacogdoches, Texas, got religion when he saw the appalling situation of the refugees from the Russia-Afghanistan war, and decided they needed help fighting off the Soviet monsters. (And monsters they were, too. It’s well-documented. They ruled the skies, and dropped bomblets that looked like toys, to injure children, among other atrocities.) Charlie figured that a few ground-to-air missiles would even things up a bit, and one thing led to another, and soon the US was spending a billion dollars a year aiding the people who turned out to be the Taliban. But we didn’t know that. We were there with good intentions, but those so often go wrong, don’t they? And our other great failing, repeated all over the world, is that we’re not good on follow-up. When we’re spending money on weapons, the sky’s the limit. No questions asked. There is a heartbreaking scene where Charlie is trying to convince the same committee that was eager to send in arms to spring for a few lousy million dollars to rebuild some of the infrastructure destroyed by years of war, things like schools. No dice. So the Afghans started schools of their own (Taliban means students), and soon they were banning all music, executing women in the soccer stadiums … you know the sad story. They welcomed mass murderer Osama bin Laden and the pig-fuckers of al-Qaeda , and the next thing you know the World Trade Center was coming down. Probably could have been avoided … but who knew? Well, Charlie had an inkling, and so did his co-conspirator, Gust Avrakotos (brilliantly played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, and is there anything this dude can’t do?), but no one was listening. A very sad story, and a film that has a lot of laughs and some tears in it. Tom Hanks is good as the ne’er-do-well who, maybe to his own surprise, ends up doing something altruistic. And even Julia Roberts, someone I’m not wild about, is very good here in a small part.