The movie opens up with Tom Hanks, playing US Texas congressman Charlie Wilson, sitting in a hot tub, with naked women, in Las Vegas, drinking. While this hedonism is going on he still finds time to allow the news that is on the TV behind to draw his attention. Charlie flies under the radar being a congressman that doesn’t create any waves, votes the way he is asked (or who is willing to slip him some incentives) and in return, his office staffed near exclusively with young beautiful women, drinking and the occasional drug taking doesn’t raise any eyebrows. Charlie is someone everyone knows and has a number of favours uncashed around town.
Based on a true story, it evolves around the Afghanistan conflict and how the Russians are walking all over the local people with their superior fire power. There doesn’t seem to be a huge appetite from the US to do anything more than pay lip service with a very under whelming budget.
Charlie Wilson: You mean to tell me that the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan is to have the Afghans keep walking into machine gun fire ‘til the Russians run out of bullets?
Gust Avrakotos: That’s Harold Holt’s strategy, it’s not U.S. strategy.
Charlie Wilson: What is U.S. strategy?
Gust Avrakotos: Well, strictly speaking, we don’t have one. But we’re working hard on that.
Charlie Wilson: Who’s ‘we’?
Gust Avrakotos: Me and three other guys.
Texas socialite and fundamentalist Christian Joanne Herring (Julia Roberts) who is a close (very) friend to Charlie is not happy with the Afghan situation and persuades to Charlie to use his influence to help.
Charlie starts to go through the official channels and the CIA are just not that interested. Knowing they simply can’t ignore a congressman, they pacify him by sending a grumpy and frustrated agent, Gust Avrakotos (Philip Seymour Hoffman), who has no time for Charlie’s antics and does not take him seriously.
We are reminded just how great an actor Hoffman was, as he plays to perfection this cantankerous CIA agent that is wanting to do something instead of toeing the company line.
Keep an eye out for the scene when Charlie and Gust meet for the first time at Charlie’s office and the bottle of whisky brought as a warming present. Both Hanks and Hoffman at the top of their game with this fast paced moving interplay.
Charlie Wilson: You’re no James Bond.
Gust Avrakotos: You’re no Thomas Jefferson, either. Let’s call it even.
Charlie see’s for himself the real suffering that is going on in
Afghanistan and then throws himself at the problem, working every angle possible, brokering deals and flying all over the middle east in an official unofficial capacity.
The movie moves along at a wonderful pace allowing Tom Hanks to do that thing he does – makes you believe completely he is the character he is playing and forget every other character he has ever played. For me, Julia Roberts didn’t work as the power behind the men. She didn’t look right. Though there is a small irony here of course, as the real life Joanne Herring did indeed look like this!
A highly enjoyable evening that gives you an insight into a story that is remarkable close to the truth (if the Wikipedia page on Charlie Wilson is to be trusted).
Monday, 14th September 2015