Charlie Wilson's War
Joanne Herring: Charlie, I want you to defeat the Soviet Union, and end the Cold War.
Charlie Wilson: OK!
Charlie Wilson's War is a 2007 biographical drama film (adapted from the non-fiction book by George Crile) recounting the true story of U.S. Congressman Charlie Wilson who partnered with CIA operative Gust Avrakotos to launch Operation Cyclone, a program to organize and support the Afghan mujahideen in their resistance to the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. It was directed by Mike Nichols, written by Aaron Sorkin, and starred Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Amy Adams.
The plot follows Charlie Wilson, who has a very gregarious social life of women and partying, including having his congressional office staffed with young, attractive women. A friend and romantic interest, Houston socialite Joanne Herring, encourages Charlie to do more to help the Afghans, and persuades Charlie to visit the Pakistani leadership. The Pakistanis complain about the inadequate support of the U.S. to oppose the Soviets, and they insist that Charlie visit a major Pakistan-based Afghan refugee camp. Charlie returns home to lead an effort to substantially increase funding to the mujahideen. The story then follows the rapid evolution of Wilson's suggestions to multi-million dollar funded projects by the United States. Teaming up with gruff but knowledgeable CIA agent Gust, Charlie starts seeing results as the Afghans fight back against the Soviets. But Charlie starts finding out there are unintended consequences happening, and that the secret war effort is slipping down a slope he didn't want...
Gust Avrakotos : There's a little boy and on his 14th birthday he gets a horse... and everybody in the village says, "how wonderful. The boy got a horse" And the Zen master says, "we'll see." Two years later, the boy falls off the horse, breaks his leg, and everyone in the village says, "How terrible." And the Zen master says, "We'll see." Then, a war breaks out and all the young men have to go off and fight... except the boy can't cause his legs all messed up. and everybody in the village says, "How wonderful."
Charlie Wilson: Now the Zen master says, "We'll see".
- Anti-Air: A major problem is finding a mule-portable weapon that can shoot down the well-armored Hind helicopter gunships.
- Arms Dealer: Israeli arms merchant Zvi Rafiah.
- Badass Boast: "Now for 24 years, people have been trying to kill me. People who know how. Now is that because my dad was a Greek soda pop maker or because I'm an American spy?"
- Badass Bookworm: Former special forces soldier turned covert warfare strategist Michael Vickers.
- Belly Dancer
- Bittersweet Ending: Charlie Wilson succeeds in getting the American government to arm Afghan rebels and drive the Soviets out of Afghanistan. But when it comes time to rebuild the war-torn nation he can't raise one cent, allowing the extremist Taliban to take over Afghanistan. And that all led to...
Charlie Wilson: These things happened. They were glorious and they changed the world... and then we fucked up the end game.
- Enemy Mine: Charlie is able to get Liberals and Conservatives, Arabs and Israelis, and Christian and Muslim Fundamentalists to join forces with the common aim of throwing the Soviets out of Afghanistan.
- Fan Service: Emily Blunt shows up. In her lingerie.
- Foreshadowing: An airliner can be heard flying overhead as Gust tries to warn Wilson about "the crazies rolling into Kandahar".
- Framing Device: We start and end some years after the main events of the film.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: The crap being the money to fund this war.
- Harsher in Hindsight: Invoked, the movie makes a point about how neglecting the aftermath paves the way for a tyrannical regime. Won the War, Lost the Peace.
Wilson: These things happened. They were glorious and they changed the world... and then we fucked up the endgame.
- Historical Hero Upgrade: Depending on your politics, natch. The real Charlie Wilson was not quite as liberal as the one in the film (he didn't have to be -- the Soviets were also commies in Real Life, so it balances out).
- Hookers and Blow
- How We Got Here: The movie opens with Charlie Wilson being handed a civilian award for his efforts with the Afghan war. The movie then explains why Charlie has a pained, bittersweet expression on his face...
- Immigrant Patriotism: Gust tells it like it is.
Gust: But let me ask you. The 3,000 agents Turner fired, was that because they lacked diplomatic skills as well?
Cravely: You're referring to Admiral Stansfield Turner?
Gust: Yeah, the 3,000 agents. Each and every goddamn one of them first or second generation Americans. Is that because they lacked the proper diplomatic skills? Or did Turner not think it was a good idea to have spies who could speak the same language as the people they're f--king spying on?
Cravely: Well, I'm sorry, but you can hardly blame the Director for questioning the loyalty to America of people that are just barely Americans.
Gust: My loyalty! For twenty four years people have been trying to kill me! People who know how. Now do you think that's because my dad was a Greek soda pop maker? Or do you think that's because I'm an American spy?
- Inspired By
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Gust. He's blunt, rude and lacking in social skills. But he's competent, knows his stuff... and tries to warn Charlie at various points of the arming efforts that there could be painful consequences down the road.
- Just Plane Wrong: Several NATO aircraft are shown in the montage of Stinger casualties.
- Lost in Translation: "It’s funnier in the original Pashtu."
- Male Gaze: Various close-ups of the behinds of Charlie's secretaries.
- Mood Whiplash: The movie bounces between the horrors of war, the insanity of politics, and the comedy of Charlie's lifestyle.
- Mrs Fanservice: Jane Liddle, who's spends most of her on screen appearance in her underwear.
- My Name Is Not Durwood: It's Gust Avrakotos, not Gus Avrakotos.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Subverted. It's not Charlie's fault that Afghanistan slides into Taliban control: he's seen trying to get his fellow congressmen to send more rebuilding aid and failing. It leads to Charlie's unhappy grimace at the opening/closing award ceremony. In Real Life, Charlie Wilson remained worried that his actions unintentionally contributed to The War on Terror.
- No Politicians Were Harmed: Few names were changed, although Amy Adams' character is a composite of several of Rep. Wilson's Real Life aides.
- No Except Yes:
Bonnie Bach: They're a group of ultra right-wingers who are fanatically anti-Communist.
Charlie Wilson: They're not ultra right-wing.
Bonnie: What are they?
Charlie: Well, they're ultra right-wing.
- Obfuscating Hedonism: Charlie's scandalous lifestyle distracts media attention from his fund-raising and lobbying for the war.
- Obstructive Bureaucrat: Several of these in the CIA.
- Odd Friendship: The relationship between hard-partier Charlie Wilson and devout-religious Joanne Herring. It's noted there was some romance in the past, but it's still odd to see such polar opposites being so friendly to each other throughout the film.
- Really Gets Around: Charlie Wilson. His Girlfriend Jane also expresses willingness to sleep with other men.
- Refuge in Audacity: Charlie doesn't try to hide his hedonistic lifestyle from his Bible Belt constituents.
- He's representing Texas: they pray hard and party hard in that state.
- Sexy Secretary: Charlie was notorious for this in real life.
- One of his secretaries explains it beautifully to a visitor: "Well... Congressman Wilson, he has an expression. He says, 'You can teach 'em to type, but you can't teach 'em to grow tits.'"
- Shout-Out: "Has there ever been a show about Washington? I don't think there has."
- Signature Style: The screenplay has Aaron Sorkin's fingerprints all over it, as he would put it.
- Smart People Play Chess: We're introduced to covert warfare strategist Mike Vickers playing chess in a park against four opponents simultaneously.
- Smooch of Victory: Charlie kisses his secretary in front of his congressional colleagues when she brings him the news of the first Hinds being shot down.
- Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan
- Spit Take: Wilson nearly drops his drink when Joanne Herring introduces the President of Pakistan by pointing out that he didn't really shoot his predecessor (he had him hanged).
- Spy From Weights and Measures: Gust claims to work for Department of Agriculture's Fruit and Plant Division, specializing in apple imports, though it's mostly played as a joke because Joanne is well-aware he's with the CIA.
- Work Hard, Play Hard: Charlie Wilson's motto.