The main problem is that, by adhering to the facts, Charlie doesn’t really have to overcome any obstacles to wage–and win–his war; he just has to follow the right steps. And you see them all in the trailer: Charlie connects with Gust Avrakotos (Hoffman), the one CIA man who cares about Afghanistan. Charlie meets with the President of Pakistan. Charlie arranges a secret arms deal between Pakistan and Israel. And... voila. That last step, in particular, seems like a tough one, but not so in the movie. The Israeli arms dealer hems and haws for a moment, then capitulates in the very same scene and shakes hands with the Pakistani. When Charlie needs the help of other senators, well, that’s not a problem because he conveniently holds the most IOU’s in Washington. Even when Charlie comes under investigation by ambitious prosecutor Rudy Giuliani (and you think he’s going to need Gust’s expertise to get out of it), the problem just suddenly goes away, off-screen and unearned, and Charlie (and the audience) is informed by one of his staff.
Sorkin and Nichols attempt to deal with this lack of obstacles by adopting a light-hearted caper tone for the movie. The actors are game for this, and all fun to watch, and we end up with a lighter-than-air Ocean’s 11 kind of movie about arming the future Taliban. If Nichols and Sorkin could have left it at that, and relied upon the intelligence of their audience to add the irony by pausing after they cheer for the Mujahaddin with the Stinger missile and then say, "Wait a minute! I know what happened after that!" then Charlie Wilson’s War would have been a deft and truly subversive political black comedy, in the vein of Dr. Strangelove. But instead, they assume no intelligence on the part of the audience, and tack on a coda beating the viewer over the head with the message: we won the war but failed the long peace. Or, to quote Charlie directly, "those things happened, and they were glorious, and then we fucked up the end game." (It is a good quote; I can see why they wanted to use it...)
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