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Charlie Wilson's War

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Title: Charlie Wilson's War  
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Subject: 65th Golden Globe Awards, Mike Nichols, Gust Avrakotos, Tom Hanks, Philip Seymour Hoffman
Collection: 2000S Drama Films, 2000S Spy Films, 2007 Films, American Biographical Films, American Films, American Political Drama Films, American Spy Films, Central Intelligence Agency in Fiction, Docudramas, English-Language Films, Film Scores by James Newton Howard, Films About Politicians, Films Based on Actual Events, Films Based on Non-Fiction Books, Films Directed by Mike Nichols, Films Produced by Gary Goetzman, Films Produced by Tom Hanks, Films Set in Pakistan, Films Set in the 1980S, Films Set in the Las Vegas Valley, Films Set in Washington, D.C., Participant Media Films, Playtone Films, Relativity Media Films, Screenplays by Aaron Sorkin, Soviet–afghan War Films, Spy Films Based on Actual Events, Universal Pictures Films, War in North-West Pakistan Fiction
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Charlie Wilson's War

Charlie Wilson's War
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Mike Nichols
Produced by Tom Hanks
Gary Goetzman
Screenplay by Aaron Sorkin
Based on Charlie Wilson's War 
by George Crile
Starring Tom Hanks
Julia Roberts
Philip Seymour Hoffman
Amy Adams
Ned Beatty
Emily Blunt
Om Puri
Ken Stott
John Slattery
Denis O'Hare
Jud Tylor
Music by James Newton Howard
Cinematography Stephen Goldblatt
Edited by John Bloom
Antonia Van Drimmelen
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release dates
  • December 21, 2007 (2007-12-21)
Running time
100 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $75 million
Box office $119 million[1]

Charlie Wilson's War is a 2007 American mujahideen during the Soviet–Afghan War.

The film was directed by Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, and Philip Seymour Hoffman starred, with Amy Adams, Ned Beatty, and Emily Blunt in supporting roles. It was nominated for five Golden Globe Awards, including "Best Motion Picture", but did not win in any category. Hoffman was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.


  • Plot 1
  • Cast 2
  • Release and reception 3
    • Box office 3.1
    • Critical reaction 3.2
    • Governmental criticism and praise 3.3
    • Russian reception 3.4
  • Literary license 4
    • Mujahideen support 4.1
    • Crystal Lee 4.2
    • Happy ending 4.3
  • Aftermath 5
  • Awards and nominations 6
  • Home release 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9


The film opens with a large gathering inside an aircraft hangar. Everyone is attending a private ceremony for Democratic U.S. Representative Charlie Wilson (Tom Hanks), who is receiving a major commendation for supporting the U.S. clandestine services. As everyone looks in admiration upon a clearly moved Wilson, the movie goes back in time.

In 1980, Charlie Wilson, representing Texas's 2nd congressional district, is more interested in partying than legislating. He's an inveterate drinker and has staffed his congressional office with nubile, young women. A man of limited income, he shrewdly has amassed political favors in exchange for critical votes in the House. Furthermore, he is a prominent member of several highly influential congressional committees related to defense spending and covert espionage operations.

Wilson's attention is first drawn to the Soviet armed occupation of Afghanistan when he watches a televised Dan Rather report while hot-tubbing with cocaine-snorting strippers, a centerfold, and an aspiring producer in Las Vegas. He wonders why Rather is wearing a turban and conversing with poorly armed Afghan freedom fighters. Returning to Washington for a vote, Wilson follows up on the Afghan struggles against the Soviet invaders and unceremoniously doubles its current measly $5 million funding for U.S. support.

As a consequence of this sudden increase, Charlie receives an unexpected phone call from Joanne Herring (Julia Roberts). Herring is a prominent and influential Texas socialite and former beauty queen, who is known for her religious and politically conservative activism. She has aided Wilson in the past and now she is looking to have a favor returned. She heard of Charlie's expanding the covert Afghan budget and encourages Charlie to do more to help the Afghan people.

Making all the necessary arrangements, Herring persuades Charlie to fly out and visit the Pakistani leadership. Pakistani President Zia and two top military aides are skeptical of Wilson's courtesy call. They complain about the inadequate American support in opposing the Soviet Union, with the sad result being that their country is being flooded with Afghans fleeing the warfare. Zia persuades Charlie to visit a major Pakistan-based Afghan refugee camp. Charlie is deeply moved by the sprawling camp, the endless squalor, the ceaseless misery, the children maimed by land mines, the constant deaths and funerals, the struggle to find food, and, yet, amazingly, the obvious determination by camp inhabitants to fight the Soviets.

Charlie leaves the refugee camp a changed man. Immediately meeting with a regional CIA chief, Wilson is frustrated by the official's insistence on a low-key approach against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in order to avoid direct American implication. Charlie returns home to lead an effort to substantially increase funding to the mujahideen.

Meanwhile, Wilson's social life eventually brings about a federal investigation into allegations of his cocaine use, conducted by then U.S. Attorney Rudy Giuliani as part of a larger investigation into congressional misconduct. The investigation, though nerve-wracking, results in no charge against Charlie.

As part of the U.S. covert effort, Charlie befriends the maverick CIA officer Gust Avrakotos (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and his understaffed Afghanistan group to find a better strategy, especially including a means to counter the Soviets' formidable Mi-24 helicopter gunship. This group was composed in part of members of the CIA's Special Activities Division, including a young paramilitary officer named Michael Vickers (Christopher Denham). As a result, Charlie's deft political bargaining for the necessary funding and Avrakotos' group's careful planning using those resources, such as supplying the guerrillas with FIM-92 Stinger missile launchers, turns the Soviet occupation into a deadly quagmire with their heavy fighting vehicles being destroyed at a crippling rate. The CIA's anti-communism budget evolves from $5 million to over $500 million (with the same amount matched by Saudi Arabia), startling several congressmen. This effort by Charlie ultimately evolves into a major portion of the U.S. foreign policy known as the Reagan Doctrine, under which the U.S. expanded assistance beyond just the mujahideen and began also supporting other anti-communist resistance movements around the world.

Charlie follows Gust's guidance to seek support for post-Soviet occupation Afghanistan, but finds almost no enthusiasm in the U.S. government for even the modest measures he proposes. The film ends with a return to the hangar scene where Wilson finishes receiving a major commendation for the support of the U.S. clandestine services. However, his pride is tempered by his fears of what unintended consequences his secret efforts could yield in the future and the implications of U.S. disengagement from Afghanistan.


Release and reception

Box office

The film was originally set for release on December 25, 2007; but on November 30, the timetable was moved up to December 21. In its opening weekend, the film grossed $9.6 million in 2,575 theaters in the United States and Canada, ranking #4 at the box office.[2] It grossed a total of $119 million worldwide—$66.7 million in the United States and Canada and $52.3 million in other territories.[1]

Critical reaction

Charlie Wilson's War received generally favorable reviews from critics. The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 82% of critics gave the film positive reviews, based on 192 reviews.[3] Metacritic reported the film had an average score of 69 out of 100, based on 39 reviews.[4]

Governmental criticism and praise

Reagan-era officials, including former Under Secretary of Defense Cold War victory: that the Reagan-led effort to support freedom fighters resisting Soviet oppression led successfully to the first major military defeat of the Soviet Union... Sending the Red Army packing from Afghanistan proved one of the single most important contributing factors in one of history's most profoundly positive and important developments."[6]

Russian reception

In February 2008, it was revealed that the film would not play in Russian theaters. The rights for the film were bought by Universal Pictures International (UPI) Russia. It was speculated that the film would not appear because of a certain point of view that depicted the Soviet Union unfavorably. UPI Russia head Yevgeny Beginin denied that, saying, "We simply decided that the film would not make a profit." Reaction from Russian bloggers was also negative. One wrote: "The whole film shows Russians, or rather Soviets, as brutal killers."[7][8]

Literary license

Mujahideen support

While the film depicts Wilson as an immediate advocate for supplying the mujahideen with Stinger missiles, a former Reagan administration official recalls that he and Wilson, while advocates for the mujahideen, were actually initially "lukewarm" on the idea of supplying these missiles. Their opinion changed when they discovered that rebels were successful in downing Soviet gunships with them.[5] As such, they were actually not supplied until the second Reagan administration term, in 1987, and their provision was mostly advocated by Reagan defense officials and influential conservatives.[9][10][11]

Crystal Lee

The character "Crystal Lee", played by

  • Official website
  • Charlie Wilson's War at the Internet Movie Database
  • Charlie Wilson's War at AllMovie
  • Charlie Wilson's War at Box Office Mojo
  • Charlie Wilson's War at Rotten Tomatoes
  • Charlie Wilson's War at Metacritic
  • "Tom Hanks Tells Hollywood Whopper in Charlie Wilson's War", AlterNet, December 21, 2007.
  • Former Congressman Les AuCoin's movie review & essay on the real Charlie Wilson.

External links

  1. ^ a b "Charlie Wilson's War (2007)".  
  2. ^ "Charlie Wilson's War (2007) - Weekend Box Office Results".  
  3. ^ "Charlie Wilson's War".  
  4. ^ "Charlie Wilson's War (2007): Reviews".  
  5. ^ a b Gertz, Bill (December 21, 2007). "Charlie's Movie".  
  6. ^ Johns, Michael (January 19, 2008). "Charlie Wilson's War Was Really America's War".  
  7. ^ Александра Шевелева (2008-03-18). "BBC: A film not for everybody (in Russian)". BBC News. Retrieved 2013-06-29. 
  8. ^ Bierbaum, Tom (February 10, 2008). Charlie' won't play in Russia"'".  
  9. ^  
  10. ^ "Did the U.S. "Create" Osama bin Laden?".  
  11. ^ Kengor, Paul (January 12, 2008). "'"Whose War? Separating Fact from Fiction in 'Charlie Wilson's War.  
  12. ^  
  13. ^ Alford, Matthew (2010).  
  14. ^  
  15. ^ Hartley, Matt (April 26, 2008). "Charlie Wilson's intellectual-property war".  
  16. ^ Droganes, Constance (September 19, 2008). "'"Arthur Kent settles suits over 'Charlie Wilson's War.  
  17. ^ "Hollywood Foreign Press Association 2008 Golden Globe Awards for the Year Ended December 31, 2007". 2007-12-13. Archived from the original on 2007-12-15. Retrieved 2007-12-16. 
  18. ^ "Charlie Wilson's War".  


The film was released on DVD April 22, 2008; a DVD version and a HD DVD/DVD combo version are available. The extras include a making of featurette and a "Who is Charlie Wilson?" featurette, which profiles the real Charlie Wilson and features interviews with him and with Tom Hanks, Joanne Herring, Aaron Sorkin, and Mike Nichols. The HD DVD/DVD combo version also includes additional exclusive content.[18]

Home release

Award Date of ceremony Category Nominee(s) Result
Academy Awards February 24, 2008 Best Supporting Actor Philip Seymour Hoffman Nominated
British Academy Film Awards February 10, 2008 Best Actor in a Supporting Role Nominated
Chicago Film Critics Association December 13, 2007 Best Supporting Actor Nominated
Critics' Choice Movie Awards January 7, 2008 Best Supporting Actor Nominated
Best Writer Aaron Sorkin Nominated
Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association December 17, 2007 Best Supporting Actor Philip Seymour Hoffman 2nd place
Top 10 Films 10th place
Golden Globe Awards[17] January 13, 2008 Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy Nominated
Best Actor - Motion Picture Musical or Comedy Tom Hanks Nominated
Best Supporting Actor - Motion Picture Philip Seymour Hoffman Nominated
Best Supporting Actress - Motion Picture Julia Roberts Nominated
Best Screenplay Aaron Sorkin Nominated
National Society of Film Critics January 5, 2008 Best Supporting Actor Philip Seymour Hoffman 3rd place
Online Film Critics Society January 8, 2008 Best Supporting Actor Nominated
Sant Jordi Awards April 23, 2009 Best Foreign Actor
(also for Before the Devil Knows You're Dead and The Savages)
Toronto Film Critics Association December 18, 2007 Best Supporting Actor Nominated
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association December 10, 2007 Best Adapted Screenplay Aaron Sorkin Won
World Soundtrack Academy October 18, 2008 Soundtrack Composer of the Year
(also for Michael Clayton and I Am Legend)
James Newton Howard Won

Awards and nominations

In 2008, Canadian journalist and politician Arthur Kent sued the makers of the film, claiming that they had used material he produced in the 1980s without obtaining the proper authorization.[15] On September 19, 2008, Kent announced that he had reached a settlement with the film's producers and distributors, and that he was "very pleased" with the terms of the settlement, which remain confidential.[16]


The film depicts the concern expressed by Charlie and Gust that Afghanistan was being neglected in the 1990s, following the Soviet withdrawal. In one of the film's final scenes, Gust dampens Charlie's enthusiasm over the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, saying "I'm about to give you an NIE (National Intelligence Estimate) that shows the crazies are rolling into Kandahar."


The film's happy ending came about because Tom Hanks, "just can't deal with this 9/11 thing," according to Melissa Roddy, a Los Angeles film maker with inside information from the production.[12] Citing the original screenplay, which was very different from the final product, in Reel Power: Hollywood Cinema and American Supremacy Matthew Alford wrote that the film gave up "the chance to produce what at least had the potential to be the Dr. Strangelove of our generation".[13]

Happy ending
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