Charlie Wilson's War

 (2,657)7.01 h 42 min2007X-RayR
A congressman, a socialite and a CIA agent boost funding for covert operations in Afghanistan.
Directors
Mike Nichols
Starring
Amy AdamsTom HanksJulia Roberts
Genres
ComedyDramaHistorical
Subtitles
English [CC]
Audio languages
EnglishEnglish [Audio Description]
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Supporting actors
Philip Seymour HoffmanNed BeattyEmily BluntOm PuriKen StottJohn SlatteryDenis O'hareJud TylorPeter GeretyBrian MarkinsonChristopher DenhamTracy PhillipsRachel NicholsShiri ApplebyWynn EverettMary Bonner Baker
Producers
Tom HanksGary Goetzman
Studio
UNIVERSAL PAY TELEVISION
Rating
R (Restricted)
Content advisory
Smokingalcohol usenudityfoul languagesexual contentviolence
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Prime Video (streaming online video)
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Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars

2657 global ratings

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Top reviews from the United States

Todd M.Reviewed in the United States on March 8, 2020
3.0 out of 5 stars
Peel back one layer of this onion and it’s a disturbing film.
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Once again, Hollywood finds a way to trivialize and sanitize US actions should be somewhat disturbing when you look at the underlying “facts” of this movie. All we needed to do was give the Afghanis some weapons and they would take care of the Russians for us and this was started by a Texas woman who owned a Congressman that was on the Appropriations Committee. It was an interesting movie but there was no need to glamorize what was happening and how little it took to commit $500M in taxpayer money for something that originated behind closed doors in secret meetings. They even found a way to make Charlie a likable character in what was likely a much more sleazy operation that could have benefited from making it a more realistic movie… but that’s not the Hollywood model.
43 people found this helpful
JonReviewed in the United States on October 5, 2019
5.0 out of 5 stars
STARZ via Prime. LOVE this movie, no negatives whatsoever for me.
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One of my first thoughts when I first noticed this movie was this: Anything with Tom Hanks and Philip Seymour Hoffman (RIP) has got to be great. I was not disappointed one tiny little bit, not for a single speck of a moment.

In a few words, the film is very serious while also being highly entertaining. Minor spoiler but nothing of great importance... Hanks as Charlie Wilson:
"What is Dan Rather wearin' right now?"
"What?"
"Dan Rather. What is he wearin'? ... Why hasn't he shaved?"
"Charlie, are we gonna do business?"
"Dan Rather... is wearin' a turban Paul."

Gotta love it.

Amy Adams does a great job as Charlie Wilson's girl Friday, who at least sorta worships him if not something more. Julia Roberts (is solid as "the sixth wealthiest woman in Texas", and in this role just a bit reminiscent of Erin Brockovich.
Joanne: "Why is Congress sayin' one thing and doin' nothin'?"
Charlie: "Well, tradition mostly."

Emily Blunt. Well, just wow. A minor part, but. Wow. "Just call me angel of the morning, angel." Whoa.

The meat of the storyline is great from start to finish, and I can't think of anybody who could've pulled it together in as fulfilling a fashion as Hanks and Hoffman. Brilliant through and through. Hoffman totally grabbed me ten seconds or less into his first scene, and then it got BETTER.

Having been quite familiar beforehand with the background of the story (via the likes of "The Main Enemy", co-written by James Risen, formerly with the NYT, and Milt Bearden, 30-year veteran of CIA clandestine services), I was pleased and satisfied with events related throughout this embellished account ("based on true events"). It was probably about as historically accurate as any mainstream production-for-profit can be. I might even call it a docudrama. It WAS dramatic, despite many lighter elements that also made it thoroughly entertaining.

All in all, "Charlie Wilson's War" competes for the best "political history" film I've ever seen. I've watched it multiple times and surely will again.
22 people found this helpful
MyD -- The ViewpointReviewed in the United States on January 3, 2015
5.0 out of 5 stars
SOVIET-AFGHAN CONFLICT, A PIVOTAL COLD WAR CHAPTER --- A MOVIE REVIEW... PLUS IMPORTANT NOTES ON HISTORICAL CONTEXT
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RARELY CAN A SERIOUS MOVIE BE THIS FUNNY AND STILL SOMEWHAT FACTUAL -- A MOVIE WITH SURPRISINGLY GREAT WIT! ***see notes on historic context below if you're interested***

Let me first caution everyone to apply just a tiny grain of salt when viewing any Hollywood movie based on true events. However, this one does a pretty good job. It depicts the true life involvement of U.S. Congressman Charlie Wilson in expanding the US budget for support of Afghan rebels during the Soviet involvement. This was a critical and dramatic chapter in the Cold War that affects the later history of the 20th century and beyond. That may not sound interesting to some viewers, but let me tell you, this movie has moxy and mirth at every turn. The characters have such natural wit that it can entertain even non history buffs.

THE PLOT (no spoilers): Texas Congressman and notorious playboy Charlie Wilson (a liberal Democrat but hawkish on foreign policy) becomes interested in the Afghan plight after seeing a news report. He sits on the house appropriations committee with the ability to affect flow of funds to entities like the CIA in order to supply better weapons and training to fight the Soviet forces in Afghanistan. The movie depicts his endeavor working with a CIA case officer, weapons specialists, a wealthy female right wing advocate and other members of congress. All are united in their fervent hate of communism. Charlie will need his exceptional skills in "horse trading", as well as his personal charm, to win others to his side and cause something truly momentous. His charm is matched with the surly disposition of CIA Case Officer Avrakotos. Both have a biting wit. Though some accents are a little exaggerated, generic southern (not Texan), and some scenes are a little melodramatic (particularly the combat involving attack helicopters), the spirit of Charlie's personality is quite faithful. Tom Hanks is more than token star power. He actually looks a bit like Wilson at that age. Hanks' accent was only a little exaggerated, Julia Roberts a little more so. She does make a very interesting character though. The verbal tête à tête between Wilson and almost every other character is hilarious! It's all done with a straight face. This is not a comedy. It's just that good! Verbal fencing occurs in almost every scene and the visit to Pakistan was a highlight for me as he spars with Pakistani officials.

HISTORICAL CONTEXT: (no political statements, just information)

.....DID AFGANISTAN WIN THE COLD WAR?: That statement by itself is way too simplified. It is a critical chapter in a much bigger story. There were independence movements going on in Soviet States before Afghanistan, an untenable arms race against the west that outspent them, over half century of crushing economic policy, and a new generation of leaders embodied by Gorbachev that wanted to end the cold war. However, it is fair to say that Afghanistan is that proverbial "straw" on a very overburdened back. For those labeling the Soviets "occupiers", it's important to remember that the Taraki led government had a treaty with the USSR for protection and actually called on them for support. Initially that support was begrudging. After the coup led by Hafizullah Amin which deposed Taraki, they still called on the USSR for help in the north, though the new regime was somewhat anti Soviet. Russia had military involvement in Afghanistan going back to Tsarist times and the "Great Game" against Britain. The problem is that the actual people of Afghanistan were overwhelmingly against the atheist ideology and a brutal suppression was underway by the Afghan government against it's own people to curtail some religious practices and political opposition. So much of the populace would consider them occupiers.

.....DID U.S. CREATE BIN LADEN AND THUS RESULTING TERROR ATTACKS?: Another huge topic, but here's what to consider - The repression in Afghanistan already had a religious context. The foreign fighters from Saudi Arabia and other places were also drawn specifically by the idea of religious jehad. There was an idea of "America next someday" that already existed. So much money and arms were poured into the region that it isn't as relevant whether Bin Laden was supported directly or indirectly. Most opposition groups, including his, would get resources one way or another. How we interacted with Afghans afterward might have influenced history. But that history is written now and it's hard to speculate if it could have gone differently. The fact is, we were there so we get some ownership of the problem. A weak government was left after Soviet withdrawal, allowing the Taliban to take power. Whether we could avoid the terrorist attacks later is a question history is still exploring. As someone with experience in that region, I am not convinced we could have avoided them by avoiding the Soviet Afghan conflict. We didn't create the genesis of that extremism. But certainly they fixated on us later and our actions create a certain variable.

MOVIE ACCURACY: I already mentioned the faithfulness to at least the spirit of Charlie Wilson's personality. The accusations of cocaine use, investigations by Juliani, the hot tub scene in Vegas (minus the TV news report I believe), all happened. Charlie's alcohol use was more detrimental to his personal life and those around him than the movie depicts. But he deserves the place in history the movie and book suggest. It is also interesting that he openly acknowledged his foibles, rather than pretending to be a family man in public and then playing differently in his personal life. I don't know if you can call that admirable, but it's a trait that many hypocritical politicians on either side could never claim.
67 people found this helpful
Mike MorenoReviewed in the United States on June 15, 2020
5.0 out of 5 stars
great movie
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This is one of my favorite historical movies, about a place in time that is gone. Great cast, Tom Hanks is always good,
Julia Roberts in a bikini, great as usual, and 1 of the last movies with Philip Seymour Hoffman, a brilliant actor.
Set in the early 80's, this is how things were done back then. We did a lot of good for the Afghanis back then, helping them defeat the Russian Red Army, which had never happened before.
We were their heroes, we had a chance to make them valuable allies against Russia, but as usual, Congress blew it.
Congress denied funding for schools and hospitals, after a tremendous victory. We left, and they hate us now.
8 people found this helpful
David G. D. HechtReviewed in the United States on January 16, 2021
5.0 out of 5 stars
A rare moment of clarity in Hollywood's filmmaking politics
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I don't write many reviews, but I just finished rewatching this on Amazon Prime and was reminded of what a truly outstanding film this was.

Let's start with the actual events, which I lived through. When Reagan took office in 1981, our Cold War policy--such as it was--came down to "don't try too hard to win it, just stay in the game." We were still in the grip of George Kennan's Era of Containment we entered into shortly after the end of WW2. There were a few cracks in the walls starting to show, but they were entirely undiscovered by our ever-so-clever intelligence services.

In one of his first national security briefings, Reagan told the briefer who was pushing this unimaginative strategy, "How about a new strategy? 'We win, they lose.'" And so it was from that point forward. I played a (very small) role in one (very small) aspect of this policy, an aspect of weapons systems development we referred to as "competitive strategies."

But much of the Reagan Administration's effort was dedicated to capitalizing on opposition to the Soviet Union within its own sphere of influence, and of course pushing back hard when it tried to expand beyond it. Thus we came to support the Afghan Mujaheddin.

But until Congressman Charlie Wilson of Texas decided to take an interest, Afghanistan occupied a decidedly subsidiary role in our hierarchy to places like Poland and Nicaragua. So his efforts count for something. How much? Unknown. As Jack Kennedy famously observed after the Bay of Pigs, success has many fathers, failure is an orphan. In the winning of the Cold War, Congressman Wilson was one of those fathers.

Did we screw up the endgame, as the movie suggests? Could be. Or maybe not. Given our complete failure in bringing liberal democracy to most of the places we've been involved in lately--Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria...the list goes on--I find it hard to believe that a million dollars to rebuild the Afghan schools would have averted 9/11. The Taliban would have seen to that!

So...on to the movie. Does the movie romanticize, simplify and clean up a messy, complicated situation involving flawed human beings? Duh. If it hadn't, it would be the first time a Hollywood movie "based on actual events" had NOT done so. Is the movie faithful in its larger contours to the situation and its participants? Speaking only from my own worm's-eye perspective from within Reagan's Navy Department, I would say so.

Tom Hanks--one of my favorite actors, who is in my opinion one of the greatest if not THE greatest of his generation, does a magnificent job in his portrayal of Congressman Wilson...warts and all. It is in some ways astonishing to see how a deeply flawed, obscure, near-joke of a congressman can rise to the occasion and truly make a difference.

Julia Roberts, at this point perhaps a trifle past the white-hot apogee of her career, does a great job as well, as does Philip Seymour Hoffman, a truly underrated actor whose career was tragically cut short. And then there are the cameos: the late, great Om Puri doing a turn as President Zia Ul-Haq of Pakistan, a pre-Mad Men John Slattery as an arrogant, old-school preppie CIA officer, and many others.

The dialogue is crisp, yet never seems contrived. Every line is delivered with conviction without slowing things down. And even the small details seem to be gotten right.

I agree with some of the critics that the combat sequences seem amateurish, though the cockpit chatter of the Soviet pilots--chilling in its dehumanization--rings very true. In the words of the song, "...He just flies the bomber, he never sees their eyes when the Hell comes down..." But if anything the attacks are too epicene and do not convey the horrors of the war.

Conclusion: if you want two hours of great acting and great dialogue, involving a plot that would be regarded as implausible if it were fiction...you should definitely see this movie. Strongly recommended!
3 people found this helpful
aliyaReviewed in the United States on February 5, 2021
1.0 out of 5 stars
Really unlikable characters
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A profligate congressman (surprise) with disgusting abuses of his position somehow becomes humble at the end after a noble intervention in the Middle East. And the one-dimensional Julia Roberts character.

Ok, the intervention was noble, which is valuable in itself, but this is about the film. Most of the scenes focus on the characters involved, who are basically arrogant shoot-from-the-hip folks, and unlikable. I didn't think Hanks could be really that unlikeable, but here we are.

There's an hour and a half of my life I can't get back.
2 people found this helpful
sefriendlyguyReviewed in the United States on January 7, 2021
5.0 out of 5 stars
a miricale worker
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to start with, this movie is based on a true story !!!
keep this in mind while watching the show, it will be clear at the end of the show
if you choose to watch the move .
the movie starts off with (tom Hanks) charlie wilson a congressman in the hot tub,
with a couple of strippers and his female assistant(Amy Adams)
the idea of this was for the congressman to relax and have a few drinks,
but the other gentlemen involved here decided he wanted strippers involved
to help make the deal with the congressmen, well?? watch and see what happens
hint! Nudity!
than while all of this was going on, the congressmen got side tracked by Dan rather on tv
and he was talking about the bombing and how many killed in Saudi arabia
so , he kind of out a stop to this and decide to go back to Washington d.c and raise
money to help the Saudi's bomb the Russians, thats the idea of the movie,
now later he charlie Wilson needs the help of (julia roberts)-Joann , she is a big time christian with contacts
also very wealthy, so, charlie Wilson has a thing for her anyway and does for him as well as you will see
in his mind Christianity has no place in the war, but she shows him , knowing god helps!
now with out telling any more of the show, you wil see other popular actors and actresses you may recognize
keep this number in mind too, $5 million to start with and see how much more it takes to get whatever charlie wilson needs to get the said is what they need to defeat russia, some pretty interesting things happen to get what he wants, during al of this charlie wilson has to fight the media over his little hub tub thing in vegas! and his assistant(Amy Adams) is right by his side through the whole thing!
RDDReviewed in the United States on March 19, 2021
5.0 out of 5 stars
A Great Film from Mike Nichols and Aaron Sorkin!
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Mike Nichols’ 2007 film, “Charlie Wilson’s War,” adapts a screenplay by Aaron Sorkin based on the book of the same name by George Crile. It stars Tom Hanks as Representative Charlie Wilson, Julia Roberts as Joanne Herring, Philip Seymour Hoffman as Gust Avrakotos, Amy Adams as Bonnie Bach, Ned Beatty as Representative Doc Long, Emily Blunt as Jane Liddle, and Om Puri as President of Pakistan Zia-ul-Haq. The film tells the story of Texas Congressman Charlie Wilson who lead support for Operation Cyclone, a massive covert operation to aid the Afghan people and train the Afghan Mujahideen during the Soviet-Afghan War (1978-1989).

Following Vietnam, the United States was wary of getting involved in further proxy wars with the Soviet Union so no direct aid was sent to fight the Soviet invasion. At the same time, Wilson was known as “Good Time Charlie” and regularly partied and drank to excess, though reports from the Associated Press led him to seek a way to aid the Mujahideen through the CIA’s “black appropriations” budget. Wilson used his position on the U.S. House Committee on Appropriations to ensure his funding requests went through. The film depicts Wilson meeting with Pakstani leadership as well as the training that the CIA provided to the Mujahideen. The film also portrays the U.S. failure to support post-Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, creating a power vacuum that the Taliban later filled while some U.S. policies at the time led to further blowback in the region.

Sorkin often references Don Quixote in his works and there are elements of this story that are particularly quixotic so that his style of writing works particularly well. Further, Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, and Philip Seymour Hoffman all give phenomenal performances.
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