Monday, December 31, 2007

Do See "Charlie Wilson's War!"

Texas Politics generates bigger than life characters and the Charlie Wilson of this film is believably outrageous. John Fund tells us in the Wall Street Journal that "I met Charlie Wilson in his heyday in the 1980s. He was an operator and a carousing libertine. But he was honest about it, promising constituents that, if he were caught in a scandal, 'I won't blame booze and I won't suddenly find Jesus.'" The movie, in Fund's words, tells how "one ornery congressman and a few friends helped change the world." (This does not require a subscription.)

Tom Hanks played the part perfectly, much to my surprise. He has come a long way as an actor. Despite knowing Julia Roberts was in the movie, I didn't recognize her until the credits at moviesend–That's because I was so captivated by the movie and her part in it (she played it perfectly.)

Did I like it? You bet! I would love to know what some of my circle think of it: both those with security clearances and those without, those who lived through it and those who read about it in the history books.

The moral of the movie? Again in Fund's words: "
Good things can happen when principle trumps partisanship."

Be forewarned: boozing, wenching, cussing, violence and a well earned "R" rating.

If you want to view the trailer click through.


Matt said...

I know you and "your" onery sensibility and inclination to the sort of troublemakers like Wilson was so it is no surprise you enjoyed the movie very much. The book was, as usual, better and much more entertaining and I thought Hank's showmanship was good enough, especially the odd gate he adopted no doubt from studying the true character, though I cannot speak to it's accuracy. That aside, I thought he flopped when he "attempted" to tear up at the sight of the refugee camp, a scene which is becoming a very familiar sight in many an oppressed nation, or more exactly, in their neighboring states. Or perhaps it is b/c we have seen him attempt this too often in too many films to be moved by it any longer. I for one enjoy Hanks very much in many films, but I place this only among his mid-level achievements noting the spectacularity of the truth behind the film as the resurrecting factor. So that's enough about Hanks performance.

Now to the content of the real story and Wilson's actions which I find, unconscionable in one sense and heroic in another. What did you expect :-] I realize politics is messy and takes actors like him to make things go, but the corruption of the system that has (or had then) grown to allow the sort of unilateral action by one person or by a small group like the committee w/o greater involvement by Congress I believe would have the founders spinning. We cannot blame Wilson I suppose except for knowing how to work the system, but the fact the system allows it is deplorable. Like the final statement of the film declares in Wilson's words (summarized) "We got it right at the start, but then F'd up the end game", I say, if he didn't think he'd be able to swing the end game, he shouldn't have bothered with the start. Some will attribute his success to bringing down the USSR. I just don't buy that. And we did a great job creating the blowback of 9/11 it engendered as a result. No matter how well intentioned he was at the outset it was just a careless move that "contributed to" (notice I clearly did not say "caused") the eventual 9/11 tragedy some 20+ years on. Not good. We should like Adam's counciled some 200 years prior, think things through to their proper end before acting. Lucky for us, Adam's was a great mind and though I admire the spunk of Wilson, I can't say the two were in any way similar. At All. I will not spell out the obvious implication, except to say he reminds me much more of a "very" modern president instead.

And one final point: how did you miss Julia Roberts in that role?! She was good, and certainly excellent eye candy to be sure, but clearly not unrecognizable.

Dr. Malcolm C. Harris, Sr. said...

Thanks, Matt.

As for Julia Roberts, maybe it was the blond hair or that I was so into the movie. You should remember you see m ore movies than I do.

Should Wilson at the beginning have had the end game planned out? I think that is a bit of a stretch. The movie starts in March, 1980. Carter was still president. The world seemed pretty hopeless at the time. No place that had gone Communist had thrown off Communist rule. Four more countries had fallen in the previous four years. Latin America was widely expected to yield the next crop of Communist dictatorships. The march of communism seemed inevitable, justified by history. The Vatican had moved its liquid assets out of Western Europe which was expected to go either Communist or at least be neutralized like Finland and Austria. The Free World was in retreat and disarray.

To think that juggernaught could be reversed anywhere seemed a utopian pipedream. To have, in 1980, a detailed plan of reconstruction after success is asking a bit much.

It appears from the movie that Wilson or at least his advisers in the CIA had a clear idea what was needed after victory. What had changed was Congress. The Scoop Jacksons of the nation had become extinct. The two parties had become far more ideological and partisan. This was driven by the combined evils of campaign finance reform and the McGovern reforms in the Democratic Party. (To the latter we owe the absurdity of a two year long presidential campaign.) Given my having Boss McLaughlin in the family tree, you may not be surprised to learn that I consider the word "reform" a cuss word. Reagan had been succeeded by Bush Senior and the public was too full of euphoria to think of the future.

I also suspect that Charlie Wilson was running out of chits to cash in.

The movie presents the gutting of our intelligence in the 1970s in an interesting way. It shows it as the replacement of any hyphenated Americans with WASPs. I guess that goes down well in Hollywood. I do not know that it is accurate. Certainly there was a vast outflow of operatives and other personnel during the Carter administration. The CIA became more bureaucratic and less reliable. Our allies stopped sharing intelligence with us for fear of leaks. But the genre requires economy of expression and they accomplished the task with a minimum of footage.