Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Charlie Wilson's War

Will is with my mom and sister tonight so Jana and I took the opportunity to get out and see a movie. I wanted to see Alvin and the Chipmunks, but Jana talked me into Charlie Wilson's War. Good move.

We really liked the movie. It was fast-paced and shorter than you'd expect (about 90 minutes, could/should have been longer) from an Aaron Sorkin-Tom Hanks-Julia Roberts-Mike Nichols collaboration.

You've probably read a review (most have been positive), but in case you didn't, here it is in a nutshell: an obscure playboy Texas congressman, at the behest of his Houston socialite friend, leads the charge in our country's covert funding of anti-Soviet forces in Afghanistan in the 1980s; the success of these efforts eventually leads to the downfall of the Soviet Union and end of the Cold War.

Everyone did a nice job in their roles, but Philip Seymour Hoffman really stole the show with his turn as an unpolished CIA guy who knows how to get stuff done. Count Jan as one of his biggest fans. Also, Sorkin's dialogue - which I've always liked but found hard to believe in his television work - is spot on, sprinkling humor into what could be dry situations.

Here's what we took away from the story:

1. How the hell could this have been done completely covertly? An operation of this magnitude, done within our Congress, is hard to keep a secret, especially during that post-Woodward and Bernstein climate of watchdog journalism.

2. People roughly my age (32) were born a little bit too late to get the whole fear and loathing of the Soviets that came with the Cold War. Jana remembers it a little bit; she grew up near an Air Force base that her brother told her was #13 on the Soviets' list of targets were we to be at war. All I really remember is that they boycotted the 1984 Olympics, which meant more free cheeseburgers at McDonald's. Will we ever face another clear cut enemy like the Soviet Union in our lifetime?

3. The story ends with an allusion to what we know was the unfortunate aftermath of the Afghans' victory - the Taliban followed, and used the weapons we helped get them to carry out their oppression. At the end of the movie, Wilson tries to drum up meager funding for school building in Afghanistan, and says that if we don't build them we are growing our future enemies. In a sense, it gives credence to what we're currently doing in Iraq, which is sort of amazing given Sorkin's role in the movie.

If you're looking for a way to kill a couple hours over the holidays or for a DVD to rent in 4-6 months, this is a good choice.


Deuces said...

I haven't seen the movie yet. But in response to #3, the movie's ending had to be altered a bit after protests from Charlie Wilson's estate and Joanne Herring.

Scott Tappa said...

As indicated in the original post, I didn't think the late-movie allusions to the bad things that would happen in the future were obnoxious, especially given how Sorkin usually addresses these things. It seemed to simply point out what most people have accepted as the way things unfolded after the Soviets left.

Keep in mind the source, the Washington Times is ultra-conservative.

Will said...

That's part of the reason that although I love non-fiction books (as many of the readers here do), I tend to avoid movies "based on true events." Whenever something is adapted or molded for entertainment purposes, the odds are strong that the project is going to raise objections. It first really bothered me when I saw "Beautiful Mind" and then later found out how much of the movie was changed around.

Having not seen the movie or read the book (although I hear it's incredible), I don't know if that has happened here....I'm sure we'll found out though if the movie gets a lot of awards buzz.

If you want to see a good movie that is 100 percent fiction, check out No Country for Old Men. Good stuf. The Coen Brothers are my favorite St. Louis Park residents besides the Olson family.

olson said...

Thanks Will! It's always good to have our rating reaffirmed.
A Coen aside: Apparently they were scouting the SLP this fall for a block to use for their new movie. I tried to see if we could nominate ours. No such luck...
The last movie the Olsons saw in the theater together was "Walk the Line." It's tough to head to the theater when we get our 3 hrs. of free time away from the short one. Some adult conversation (and dinner) is usually preferred.
The movie I'm looking forward to is "There Will Be Blood." I'm a sucker for PTA, and this looks like an epic career-maker.

Scott Tappa said...

No Country for Old Men looks very good, but I won't get Jana to see that in theaters with me; maybe we'll Netflix it later. Same with the Blood movie - Jana's not squeamish, but there's still a line she won't cross easily.

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