Academy Award® winners Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts and Philip Seymour Hoffman star in this compelling and witty film from Oscar®-winning director Mike Nichols and Primetime Emmy®-winning writer Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing). B... more »ased on the outrageous true story, Charlie Wilson's War shows how one congressman who loved a good time, one Houston socialite who loved a good cause and one renegade CIA agent who loved a good fight conspired to bring about the largest covert operation in history.« less
Randal A. (Movieran) from SATELLITE BCH, FL Reviewed on 3/21/2017...
Interesting and exciting story of how Afgan Rebels beat the Russian War machine.
Kathy S. (kathyshea) from TERRE HAUTE, IN Reviewed on 7/25/2012...
My husband and I love this movie - it's educational, it's an eye opener, it's funny (we love Gus) and there are great actors in here. We watch it again every few months
Lenka S. from DANVILLE, PA Reviewed on 7/27/2011...
Just some background here--According to former Secretary of State Robert Gates in his book _From the Shadows_ the CIA began giving aid to Islamic fighters in Afghanistan several months before the Soviet invasion. Former National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter Zbignew Brzezinski is on public record stating that Carter signed an order on July 3, 1979 to give aid to the mujahadeen. Brzezinski informed Carter in a memo on the same day that "this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention". When asked if he had regrets about helping to start a war Brzezinski replied, "Regret what? That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap and you want me to regret it? The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter. We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam War".
The importance of Charlie Wilson is wildy blown out proportion in this movie and his involvement inaccurately portrayed, as is that of his "side kick". The real-life Wilson had always been a hawkish rightwinger and commie hating cold war warrior. In the film we are lead to think Wilson was simply a good time lovin', womanizing, good ole boy Texan Congressman that never really got serious until he saw in person poor Afghan refugees. At this moment in the film Wilson changes before our eyes and now he has a righteous cause. The real Wilson was a friend of Nicaraguan tyrant Anastasio Samoza. Wilson's partner in the movie (played by Philip Seymour Hoffman) is based on CIA operative Gust Avrakotos. In the 1960s army colonels led a coup in Greece and Avrakotos was the CIA main contact with the notorious fascist regime. Avrakotos was forced to leave Greece by the late 70s, having achieved a very nasty reputation.
The aftermath and consequences of this cold war game aren't given their due by this Hollywood movie either. The very weapons the U.S. supplied the mujahadeen were used to wage a lenghty, bloody civil war in Afghanistan. It was well understood who our government was dealing with despite Ronald Reagan's claim that the Afghan fighters were the moral equivalent of America's founding fathers. About half the CIA money went to a monster named Gulbaddin Hekmatyar, a fellow who in his youth used to throw acid in the faces of unveiled women. Hekmatyar was known to be as "anti-American" as they come. The CIA and US government would get in bed with anybody just so long as they could serve as a temporary useful pawn in the cold war chess game with the USSR and so the terrorist goon received Stinger missles, training, and lots of money. The Taliban and an group that came to be known as al-Qaeda formed out of the ashes of the Afghan civil war. At the end of the film Charlie Wilson is shown trying to secure money for schools but it's not clear how much a few new schools would help when Reagan's founding fathers liked throwing acid in the face of women and killing teachers that dared try to educate girls.
Viewers of the movie are to believe the US means well, but sometimes makes mistakes. Clearly there was little real concern for the fate of Afghanistan and we do get a sense of this when watching the good Charlie Wilson's failed efforts to build some schools. What the movie completely gets wrong is that Washington ever cared about the Afghan people in the first place and not only that but did it's best to draw the Soviet Union into a war with them. I'll not go on about how cliched and formulaic this Hollywood flick is with it's warped fixation on the individual and personal and disregard for mere facts. I hope most Americans don't take movies like this too seriously.
Liz F. (monkeygirl) from INDIANAPOLIS, IN Reviewed on 7/25/2010...
Loved the movie. It was interesting to watch. Didn't think it was boring.
The characters all have a unique style and the story was fairly catchy. :)
William R. from MONTMORENCI, SC Reviewed on 8/5/2009...
If you never watch another, You as an American must see this true story
of what one congressman did to help the Afghanistan people drive the Russians out
their county. And how we screwed up at the end that would mostly likly prevented our service being from being Afghanistan now. A MUST SEE MOVIE
4 of 4 member(s) found this review helpful.
Charlie did it!
R. Kyle | USA | 12/24/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It's amazing what a few committed believers can do. In 1979, Charlie Wilson (Tom Hanks), a good timin' Texas Congressman finds Dan Rather doing a remote report in war-torn Afghanistan more interesting than a hot tub full of gorgeous naked women, drugs, and booze.
Next thing he knows, the sixth wealthiest woman in Texas and his sometime lover, Joanne Herring (Julia Roberts) invites him to a fundraiser. She's a bit right of center for him, but he goes--for the sex as much as anything probably.
He comes away with a mission. Start a war. If the US can arm Afghani rebels, they can stop Soviet encroachment into the Middle East--which would probably have ended with the Russians owning most of the oilfields and us out in the cold--quite literally.
"Charlie Wilson's War" is based on the true story of Texas' 2nd District US Congressman who literally did initiate the clandestine help the US gave the Afghani rebels. He, with a little help from his friends, increased the budget for help for these efforts from 5M to 1B within a 7 year time frame enabling the Afghanis to be the first country to defeat Russia and effectively end the "Cold War."
"Charlie Wilson's War" is by far the best film I've seen this Christmas season and I would not be surprised if it didn't win Oscars for picture of the year. Tom Hanks does an amazing job as the flawed man, who was a true patriot and humanitarian. Ms. Roberts does the over-the-top Texas heiress just right. Also, no surprise that Philip Seymour Hoffman blew us away as the rogue CIA agent, Gust Avrakolos.
The soundtrack, by Toto alumnus James Newton Howard, was the perfect accompaniment to the visuals. Mr. Howard has a way of picking just the right song to illustrate a time, emotion, or place. That CD is on my Wish List now.
The movie took you on the gamut of emotions from amusement, to horror, to suspense. How they managed to so succinctly cover almost a decade worth of machinations in an hour and a half still amazes me.
I wasn't the only person amazed. It seems several couples who'd come out of the film decided to eat at the same restaurant and the talk about "Charlie Wilson's War" was appreciative all around.
I'm definitely buying this DVD when it becomes available and possibly will see the movie one more time before it leaves the big screen. This one is definitely worth a second watch.
Consequences of Wheeling 'n Dealing on a Global Scale
Erika Borsos | Gulf Coast of FL, USA | 01/06/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Congressman Charlie Wilson from Lufkin, Texas, a ruggedly handsome man, who was a committed anti-Communist, with a few character flaws, who loved to have a good time, enjoyed alcohol and was a ladies' man ... became one of the unsung heros of the Afghanistan War. He was the only civilian to ever receive recognition and honor by the C.I.A. for his part in helping to drive the Russians out from Afghanistan. This film is based on the true stories written by the author George Crile in his book, "Charlie Wilson's War: The Extraordinary Story of How the Wildest Man in Congress and a Rogue CIA Agent Changed the History of Our Times". Essentially, there are two formulas to win this war on a global scale: the first is, "money + power = secret arms deals" and the second is, "clandestinely obtained weapons + motivated Afghani fighters = success". Serendipity often comes into play when success occurs on a global scale and Charlie Wilson seemed to benefit both from the unexpected and unknown ...
Charlie Wilson was sitting in a hot tub at Caesar's Palace with three young ladies, two of whom were strippers, and some male business partners, when he first saw Dan Rather on assignment in Afghanistan, presenting the plight of the mujahideen. Dan Rather described the difficulty they had fighting the Russians who had superior technology and arms. When he returned to Washington, he read the teletype from API, UPI, and Reuters and asked the C.I.A. how much was in their budget for clandestine operations in Afghanistan. He was told $5 million dollars, he quickly told them, "double it" [Charlie Wilson happened to be on the Senate Appropriations Committee]. From that point forward, Charlie Wilson was committed to helping free the Afghanistan people from Russian control ...
Tom Hanks does a superb job in playing the role of Charlie Wilson. At some point, he was contacted by Joanne Herring (played to perfection by Julia Roberts) who is a wealthy socialite from Texas who recently became a 'born again' Christian. She knew President Zia, the Prime Minister of Pakistan and arranged for Charlie Wilson to meet this Pakistani leader. He pled his case that the Afghanistan fighters needed better weapons to fight the Russians. He wanted the US to provide weapons *but* wanted Parkistan to control their distribution. More than 1/5 of the population of Afghanistan had escaped across the border to Pakistan and lived in squalid conditions due to the war with the Russians. At another point in the film, Charlie Wilson had a visit from Gust Avratakos, a rather independently minded C.I.A. agent [which got him into hot water with his superiors] ... who also had a stake in helping free Afghanistan. These two unlikely partners dealt in secret deals and meetings with an Israeli weapons and arms agent. They obtained the needed Stinger anti-aircraft missles for the Afghani fighters to use against the Russian bombers which turned the war around completely. At some point in the film, Charlie Wilson had gotten political and economic support from Doc Long, another Senator who had strong religious beliefs. He committed his total support to Charlie Wilson's position in this war.
While Charlie Wilson may be viewed as a flawed hero, he and Gust Avratakos single-handedly provided the weapons and arms needed by the mujahideen to win the war against the Russians. Amazingly enough, as time passed, the 10 million dollars initially committed to this clandestine venture turned into $500 million dollars. Few men can fund a pet program and spend money of this magnitude and get away with it. This film does a superb job of presenting the circumstances and particular events which showed how the nearly impossible became reality. In many ways and on many levels, the film presents events in too much of a simplistic and entertaining fashion, for which I deduct one star. No doubt, the book is more thorough and complete in providing the complex details which led to the success which Charlie Wilson and Gust Avratakos achieved. Nevertheless, this is a most enjoyable and well done film. Erika Borsos [pepper flower]"
What a Difference One Man Can Make
Rocky Raccoon | Boise, ID | 01/08/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"(3.5 *'s) Lascivious, witty, yet folksy, US Representative Charlie Wilson had a plan. An inveterate jet-setter, "Good Time Charlie's" main motivation in Congress seemed to be for the expense account. In an opening scene we find him hot-tubbing in a swanky suite in a Las Vegas hotel. Joining him in the Jacuzzi are topless strippers who warm up nicely to the Congressman. He casually discusses investing money for a TV show with Crestoff, a friend and business associate. Cavalier at every turn, he still has enough wits about him to engage in politics even while chasing women. After all, that's how some of them become politicians.
One of his romantic and political ties is former fiance, Joanna Herring (Julia Roberts), a wealthy born-again Christian who's described by his main staffer (Amy Adams) as "ultra right-wing". She has a mission for her second district Texas (D) Congressman. Staunchly anti-communist, she has bought him a flight to talk the President of Pakistan about providing arms to Afghanistan in their war against The Soviet Union.
It's an offer he can't refuse. On his visit, he demonstrates a lack of protocol when he requests an alcoholic beverage in a palace that doesn't allow much less serve a drop. (In one funny scene after being taken to task, Wilson quips, "You're told you have character flaws from someone who hung his predecessor in a military coup.") From there she has him hopping his way through the Middle East getting support for a plan for infiltrating arms for the peasants' resistance of the Soviet attacks. Since most of the attacks are from helicopters, Wilson negotiates with Israel, the ones who have the largest stockpile of Soviet weapons. The logistics of negotiation, getting Israel and Egypt to work together, you can imagine, would be a piece of work.
Close on his heels back in the States is CIA operative Gus (Philip Seymour Hoffman), an irascible man who won't be pushed aside as a player in The Cold War. When Wilson and Gus cross paths, Gus doesn't think Wilson will walk the walk. He's seen it all on Capital Hill before. So how refreshing it becomes for Gus when Wilson proves to be a wheeler dealer of Texas-sized proportions. Wilson works to convince the committee chairman (Ned Beatty) to double the funds for assisting the Afghans while keeping the covert operation under the radar.
Meanwhile, his partying comes to roost when news stories trickle into his Congressional office about alleged cocaine use. Unflappable Charlie regards the charges like a pesky fly, but he relies heavily on an all-female staff who, despite their prowess at damage control, were hired much less on typing resumes than what their cleavages revealed. Crestoff, it seems, whom he turned down for his TV show sponsorship, double-crossed him, with an investigation linked all the way to New York and Rudy Guiliani.
`Charlie Wilson's War' is a thoroughly entertaining and inspiring movie. There are plenty of laughs to go along with the insight, and the film proves the honored wisdom that if you want reform, you have to see it. Just as some people needed to see African Americans hosed, beaten, and confronted by attack dogs on TV, Charlie is truly moved when he sees first hand the refugee masses in Afghanistan and the terrible atrocities done to their children.
Like all historical fiction, there may be a few liberties taken with the truth. Recent articles have raised objections about the connections to Bin Laden for the arms arrangements. Whether this is true or not, the movie is an entertaining and informative look at a secret operation before "covert operations" became a dirty word. There has to be a lot of truth to it, even it allegedly fails with a detail or two.
One of the most gratifying aspects of the movie is that the previews are perfect. Neither spoiling its contents nor misleading, the trailer is what it should always be: a warm up, a superb taster, leaving much more that is worth seeing. 'Charlie Wilson's War' has good performances and solid developments without a wasted word or scene. The movie may not be Oscar worthy, but it's a very satisfying movie to watch in every way."
An old-fashioned star vehicle
Roland E. Zwick | Valencia, Ca USA | 01/08/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"In 1980, Charlie Wilson was an obscure Texas congressman, more notable for his folksy manner and serial womanizing than for any legislative accomplishments. Until, that is, he became actively involved in getting Congress to covertly fund some badly needed weapon shipments to the Afghani freedom fighters - also known as the Mujahadim - in their battle against the Soviet invaders. It was these arms, particularly the anti-aircraft guns, that helped to turn the tide of the war in the Afghanis' favor and made them the only force in history to defeat the Soviet army. Wilson was greatly inspired by a wealthy, right-wing socialite by the name of Joanne Herring who took up the Afghani's cause almost as a personal crusade.
Though glitzy and superficial at times, Mike Nichols' "Charlie Wilson's War," based on the book by George Crile, is a generally entertaining romp thanks to the performances of its mega-watt stars, Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts and Philip Seymour Hoffman, and to the breezy, crackling dialogue by scenarist Aaron Sorkin, of TV's "West Wing" fame. Hanks has rarely seemed as confident and commanding in a role as he is here, and Roberts clearly relishes playing a woman who is both icily elegant and strangely vulnerable at one and the same time. In their sizzling scenes together, the two old pros conjure up memories of some of the great screen couples of the past like Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn, Myrna Loy and William Powell who knew what it meant to be movie stars and could convey that larger-than-life quality on screen.
These virtues more than compensate for the film's tendency to oversimplify the political and historical issues of the times and for a somewhat disjointed quality in the story's structure. Despite the generally light-hearted tone of the piece, the movie ends on an admirably sober note, showing how what was initially seen as a triumph for American foreign policy might in actuality have been the catalyst for the events that would culminate in 9/11 (the sound of an airliner roaring overhead near the end of the film seems to foreshadow that seminal event).
In contrast to some of the year's earlier, more heavy-handed (yet also more substantive) political dramas, "Charlie Wilson's War" is one social studies lesson that goes down easy - though it should be noted that "War," with its big-name stars, lighter tone, and safer, less topical subject matter, earns fewer points for audacity and courage than those others do."
An Eye Opener
Karen Joan | Texas | 04/07/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I knew next to nothing about the events depicted in this film prior to watching it. It is a real eye opener. Charlie Wilson's War is based on a true story. It is proof that, in this country at least, one caring, determined man can make a difference to the world.
This is a fast paced story, based on real events of the early 1980s. Essentially, Texas' colorful 2nd District US Congressman, in just 7 years, enables Afghanistan to be the first country to defeat the Russian Army, signaling the beginning of the end of the Cold War.
This film has an outstanding cast, all of whom deliver strong, believable performances. Tom Hanks is true standout, playing Charlie Wilson to a tee, depicting him in full-blown real life with all of his flaws and foibles, as well as his patriotism, big heart, determination, and guts. Julia Roberts is excellent as a wealthy Texas society woman who is used to getting what she wants. Philip Seymour Hoffman truly amazing as the CIA agent on Charlie's side. His comic timing is superlative, making you laugh out loud. Amy Adams is beautiful as always as Wilson's much put upon administrative aide. The entire supporting cast is top notch.
The script is just plain fantastic. It teaches us as well as being extremely entertaining. The dialogue is interesting and witty, and it rings true. The story is told with a host of emotions from plain amusement to sheer horror. The viewer becomes invested in this story and these people.
I highly recommend this film. You will enjoy it, and you will learn a little history. "