Thursday, 17 January 2008

Charlie Wilson's War

An entertaining but disturbing film about a U.S. congressman’s role in helping the people of Afghanistan defeat the invading Soviet army during the 1980’s. Well-acted by all concerned (especially Philip Seymour Hoffman, who steals the film as Gust, the quirky CIA agent), with a good screenplay by Aaron Sorkin and solid direction by Mike Nichols, this is an enjoyable film about a very dark and dangerous subject. I don’t object to the light tone of the film or to the comedy along the way (and there were some serious moments, attempting to show the suffering of the Afghan people). I just wish it didn’t come across as supporting Charlie Wilson quite so much. Played by Tom Hanks, Wilson is portrayed very sympathetically (for all his faults) and is almost single-handedly credited with driving the Soviet army out of Afghanistan and paving the way for the end of the Cold War. Ever since those dark days of the 80’s, Afghanistan has been living in peace and harmony, as has the world as a whole since the end of the Cold War.

Oh, wait, there is the little matter of what happened to the Wilson-armed Afghan freedom fighters after they drove out the Soviets, their role in 9/11, and their ongoing role in yet another war that has gone on for six years now. But let’s not get picky. After all, Wilson’s heart was in the right place. It’s not his fault he only got the billion dollars to supply weapons to the Afghans because it was helping to defeat Soviet communism, and that once the Soviets were out, the U.S. refused to contribute even a tiny fraction of that money to help Afghanistan recover. Charlie Wilson’s War makes this point very clear, though one wonders how such an intelligent man as Wilson could be so naïve. But the role of that billion dollars worth of weapons in the future misery of Afghanistan, and, indeed, in the misery of the world as a whole, is barely hinted at. Were Sorkin and Nichols worried about making the point too strongly, or were they not really trying to make that point at all. This isn’t clear, but knowing Sorkin’s work quite well, I will give them the benefit of the doubt and choose the former.

Good stuff, but I think it could have been better, given the quality of all those involved. ***+

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