'Charlie Wilson's War' a Satirical Spin on History

  • Playlist
  • Download
  • Embed
    Embed <iframe src="http://www.npr.org/player/embed/17525023/17525004" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no">
  • Transcript

Charlie Wilson's War, starring Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts and Philip Seymour Hoffman, is based on real events in the life of Democratic Texas Congressman Charlie Wilson.

Wilson conspired with a rogue CIA operative to launch an operation to help the Afghan mujahedeen during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. So it may seem surprising that the movie has been nominated for five Golden Globe awards in the "musical or comedy" categories. It's not a musical — but it does have its share of laughs.

'Charlie Wilson's War'

Julia Roberts and Tom Hanks i

Movers and shakers: A fierce anti-Communist with a checkbook (Julia Roberts as Joanne Herring) and a maverick congressman (Tom Hanks as Charlie Wilson) buy themselves a little revolution in Charlie Wilson's War. Francois Duhamel/Universal Pictures hide caption

itoggle caption Francois Duhamel/Universal Pictures
Julia Roberts and Tom Hanks

Movers and shakers: A fierce anti-Communist with a checkbook (Julia Roberts as Joanne Herring) and a maverick congressman (Tom Hanks as Charlie Wilson) buy themselves a little revolution in Charlie Wilson's War.

Francois Duhamel/Universal Pictures
  • Director: Mike Nichols
  • Genre: Comedy, Biography
  • Running Time: 97 minutes

After a whole fall of serious films about the Middle East, who'da thunk you could make a comedy (!) about arming the Afghan mujahedeen against the Soviets in the 1980s?

Charlie Wilson's War is a walk on the geopolitical wild side with some seriously larger-than-life companions: The title character, played by Tom Hanks, is an old-school good 'ol boy, a back-slapping, joke-telling, hard-drinking Texas politician first seen lounging in a Vegas hot tub with a gaggle of naked showgirls.

Even in their company, though, Rep. Charlie Wilson can't help wondering why Dan Rather is wearing a turban on the evening news. Turns out the Soviets are about to invade Afghanistan, so Wilson arranges for a CIA briefing, and ... well, let's just say things changed after that.

Aaron (The West Wing) Sorkin wrote the screenplay, based on George Crile's book about a string of covert operations that somehow got Jewish arms dealers to supply weapons for Muslim fundamentalists. Texas socialite Joan Herring (Julia Roberts, in charming overdrive) and CIA agent Gust Avrakotos (Philip Seymour Hoffman, understatedly hilarious) figure prominently, and Hanks is a blustering wonder.

What makes the film jaw-dropping is that all this actually happened. But what makes it entertaining is that director Mike Nichols gives it a satirical spin in the retelling, with a light touch even when it comes to the story's central irony — how all that "enemy of my enemy" business played out a few years later. (Recommended)

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.