Little did I realize that I would pretty much be getting a history lesson in how the CIA actually went ahead and armed the Afghan mujahideen to fight the Soviet Red Army in the early 80s and the role that Texas Congressman Charlie Wilson actually played in this whole story. While the first part about the CIA arming the Afghans was well, pretty much an open secret which I have known for quite a while, I didn’t quite realize the part that one lone Congressman had played in this whole scenario.
The movie itself deals with how Charlie Wilson, a ‘wheelin-dealin’ (read socializing, womanizing) Texas Congressman is persuaded by his friend and romantic interest Joanne Herring (played wonderfully by Julia Roberts) to do more to help the Afghans. Well actually, it was not like Joanne had any special interest in the welfare of the Afghans, but she wanted to beat the Communist Russians at any cost. This puts Charlie in contact with Gust Avrakotos, a maverick genius CIA operative (awesome performance by Philip Seymour Hoffman) who pretty much teaches Charlie how to go about defeating the Soviets in Afghanistan.
What follows is a retelling of the next 8 odd years in which the CIA Covert Ops budget for Afghanistan goes up from around $5 mn to just a tad more than $1 bn, and how the Afghans, for lack of a better term, kick some Russian butts in the meantime. The movie does go into reasonable detail as to how Charlie manages to pull together Congressional support for this increased budget, how the Afghans learn to make the most of the weapons and the training provided to them, while retaining viewer interest in the goings-on throughout. All in all, a very enjoyable movie for anybody who wants to know a relatively unknown aspect of how the Mujahideen grew to be as strong as they did.
What works for me in this movie is the fact that it is based on true events, as I have always believed that true stories make for really good movie scripts, provided they are told interestingly enough. This movie is enriched by some wonderful performances from almost all the principal characters played by Tom Hanks, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julia Roberts and Om Puri. Now with actors like these, it would take a really horrible script for such a movie to go wrong anywhere.
Ensure you catch this movie sometime soon, as I would assume that Star Movies will have some re-runs of the same all of May for sure.
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