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Movie Review - Charlie Wilson's War

Updated on October 3, 2010

This movie pairs Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts. It is set in the US in the middle of the Cold War in the 1980s. Communist Russia is trying to invade Afghanistan. The US helps, but not enough to actually achieve anything. They are worried that if the provided weapons are very obvious of American make, the Cold War will turn into a full on war between the US and Soviet Russia. Charlie Wilson (Tom Hanks) is a congressman representing Texas. He is a colourful character and not a typical politician. He likes his scotch, women and the occasional sniff of cocaine. When the most powerful woman in Texas, Joanne Herring (played by Julia Roberts), asks him to come watch a movie about Afghanistan he is intrigued. She then convinces him to meet with the Afghan president, who in turn sends him to an Afghan refugee camp. After seeing this humanitarian disaster with his own eyes, Wilson starts a very active campaign to help Afghanistan drive out the Russians. Together with Joanne he schemes and manipulates people to get them to help him out. But he does it in such a convincing and honest way that you instantly like him.

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The movie touches a very delicate political subject. I would think many Americans would be very proud of the way the Afghan situation was handled and how communism was driven out. But the way Afghanistan was left to fend for itself once the communist threat was gone, is at the root of a lot of trouble years later. The Russians receive insult after insult in this movie, and so they probably won’t like it too much. And I think many other nationalities will just recognize American arrogance and self-righteousness in this film. But who is right is hard to say, it is certainly a great movie to start an interesting debate!

I really liked Tom Hanks in this. He is an amazing actor, and he played Charlie Wilson without effort. He comes off as a typical cowboy Texan, who loves his women and his booze. But there is also a sensitive side to him that Hanks brings out very well. He demonstrates the passion to fight for the victims of this war, and to help them get rid of their oppressors. Especially in one of the last scenes, where he tries to get funding for schools, I think Hanks was very good. His pairing with Julia Roberts was very nice. They have a great chemistry between them, and I liked her Texan accent. She looks very over the top, with big dresses and big hair, but it really suits her character.

This movie will really make you think. About wars and ideals, and about the power of the US. But it also illustrates that every (political) action has its consequences. The US intervened in the communist invasion in Afghanistan, but afterwards left it to its poverty, and it became the largest source of terrorism directed against the US. But it is also very entertaining, with two great actors challenging each other, and a well-constructed storyline. So go watch it now!

Charlie Wilsons War trailer


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