Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Charlie Wilson's War, by Mike Nichols (2007)

I had a quick trip down south over the weekend, out to Bluff in time to see the one place that sells meals close, so back up to Invercargill I went. There, I faffed around so much that by the time it was time to eat, only McDonalds was open. No Bluff oysters for me. Coming home Saturday, I wandered around a bit, out to Riverton (nice Havana coffee at Mrs Clarks cafe and a great banana cake with more coffee at the Beach House) and then up via Otautau to Winton. Not really wanting to stay, I pressed on, thinking that if there was something showing at the St James in Gore, I'd stop.

So, that's how I got to see Charlie Wilson's War: it was due to start in 15 minutes. I'd often thought about seeing a movie at St James, it is one of those old school movie theatres, still has the old vinyl seats, and this was my chance. I'd only been sitting a few minutes when I remembered that I'd decided I didn't want to see Charlie Wilson's War. The trailers did not augur well, either; something truly dire called The Ironman and then two more so bad, I've blanked them.

But, I actually quite enjoyed this movie. Old Charlie Wilson (Tom Hanks) is a bit of an old style politician - lots of girls, drugs, booze. He's spent several terms in office basically doing nothing, but piling up favours by being agreeable. But he gets his nose rubbed in what the Russians are doing in Afghanistan: seeing the plight of the refugees stirs him to action, which I thought was quite an interesting commentary on what makes politicians tick. He gets himself oaired up with a rebel CIA agent, Gust Avrakatos (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and they go to work, enlarging the CIA budget for covert ops in Afghanistan. It wasn't clear how long it took, but over the course of the movie, they went from a $5 million budget (which, when you're facing the latest Russian attack helicopters, is nothing) to a staggering $1 billion. Along the way, for reasons of secrecy, so no-one would know of US involvement, they had to put together a mad deal involving Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan! Quite what the point of the secrecy was, I have no idea, because as soon as the plan looked feasible, the chairman of the US committee funding things is in the refugee camps, making speeches.;

But, in the current climate, it was kind of cool to see a movie showing Muslims jubilant at their ability to shoot down the Russian helicopters. And there is a sting in the tail with direct relevance to Iraq: America was great about going in guns blazing to sort things out in Afghanistan, but that then left things in a hell of a mess, with no willingness to clean it up. After getting up to the billion dollar commitment to arms, Wilson can't get a million to rebuild a single school.

Of course, with actors like Julia Roberts and Tom Hanks playing the lead, this is a movie aimed at a popular audience, so it was never going to get bogged down in seriousness. At one point, they even went for farce: Wilson is trying to get a serious briefing from Gust, but his antics in a hot tub with some strippers are about to hit the press. So,Gust gets to brief him for half a minute, then has to leave so Wilson can talk to the "jailbait" (his pet name for his secretaries), then they have to leave and so on. The farce ends when Gust reveals he knows the story anyway - not by listening in, but because he'd bugged a bottle of Scotch he gave Wilson.

I don't think I've ever seen Amy Adams in anything: she played Wilson's administrative assistant, went with him on his various trips (but there was never anything untoward between them). I found her to be very impressive - am looking forward to seeing her play Julia Powell.

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1 Comments:

Anonymous patrick said...

Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts are a classic combination... Charlie Wilson's War made me feel a little better about U.S. foreign intervention, it seemed to work out that time

4:33 AM  

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