Charlie Wilson’s War announces what kind of movie it is from the opening shot, when an animated mujahideen turns to the camera and launches a missile right at the audience, and—bombs away!—the title is revealed in an explosion of red, white, and blue. From there, it’s on to the first half of a clumsily conceived book-end, with Tom Hanks’s eponymous Texas Congressman receiving a special civilian award from the CIA for his hand in turning the tide of the Cold War against the Soviets, in front of an audience that includes an unfortunately blond Julia Roberts and an unfortunately mustachioed Philip Seymour Hoffman. These are the central players in the drama proper, an aggressively frothy tale of political intrigue set in the good old days when Red states were in Eastern Europe, not the American Midwest; coke was in (before it was out and then back in again); Dan Rather was on 60 Minutes wearing a turban; and the United States was engaged in an epochal struggle of Good versus Evil, played out in the distant lands of the Middle East. Good times.
Aesthetically uninteresting and ideologically dubious, Charlie Wilson’s War repackages a critical turning point in world history—the covert American intervention on behalf of the mujahideen in the Soviet-Afghanistan war—as a delightful romp through the offices of Congress, the bedroom of the wealthy, conservative Texas socialite Joanne Herring (Roberts, with a vaguely embarrassing Southern drawl), and the presidential palace of Pakistan. Click here to read Chris Wisniewski’s review of Charlie Wilson’s War.