This is a disturbing and in some ways confusing movie.
It features two of my longtime favorite actors-- Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts, plus a newer taste I've developed, Philip Seymour Hoffman.
Hanks and Hoffman are excellent. Roberts does what she can with a lesser role than I'm accustomed to seeing her play.
The movie, as entertainment, does it's job. It's a well put together story, directed by Mike Nichols, with screenplay by Aaron Sorkin of West Wing TV series show fame.
But let's cut to the movie. This is a story about a congressman, recruited and persuaded by a wealthy Texas woman, to covertly fund a huge, massive war.
The enemy is communist Russia. That makes it easy to get the viewer to support the mission. Hanks and Hoffman talk about wanting to kill Russians. We're talking about the late eighties-- near the end of the cold war.
I guess some would give the Russian loss in Afghanistan, or from the movie's perspective, Charlie Wilson's defeat of the Russians, as a major factor in the end of the cold war and the beginning of glasnost. I don't buy it.
Any way you slice it, it is disturbing to think that a single member of congress could wangle together the resources to fund a war, just working with committee members on several committees, without the congress approving it.
Of course, this is not surprising. We've seen this before. Remember Iran Contra? Actually, the CIA is an old hand at this kind of business. Who knows how many times, in how many countries, the CIA has funnelled, covertly, weapons and resources to rebels, often supporters of fascists and dictators?
What makes the movie kind of strange is that you want to root for Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts. But Julia plays a right wing religious zealot, trying to and succeeding at making a war happen. Hanks plays a hard drinking, womanizing liberal who is owed more favors than any other member of the house of representatives. And he's working with Republicans to massively fund a war that has not been authorized. This is criminal, maybe treasonous stuff-- the kind of stuff that Dick Cheneyand Ollie North love to get involved with. No. I do not want to root for a congressman who's trying to raise a billion in funding for a war that is not authorized. That's crazy, even if there are victims of the soviet bad guys. You don't operate a government that way.
The fact that the movie reports that Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan all played a role in the scam, the covert operation, makes this all the more objectionable.
The movie ends with a story I've heard a number of times before that presages unintended consequences-- that it is not always wise to be sad or happy when an event occurs, because you never know what will happen next. We DO know, that after we funded the mujaheddin in Afghanistan to defeat the Russians, that set things up to allow the Taliban to take over and they invited Al Qaeda into the country. Talk about unintended consequences and what a brilliant job Charlie Wilson, in the end, with his wealth Texas female collaborator, did. Stupid, stupid. Oh, and did I mention stupid? Sounds like something Bush and his appointees would do. Oh. Wait. Herbert Walker was VP, still with deep connections to the CIA. Well, Duh!
What's good about this flick is it lays out just how easy it can be for this kind of crap to happen in congress. One thing we should not do is take it for granted. We need to pass laws and set policies so this kind of stuff does not happen anymore.