If you're looking for a good movie to see over the Holidays, let me recommend Charlie Wilson's War.
For those not familiar with the storyline, "Good-Time Charlie" Wilson was Congressman from Texas who was better known for having a good time than for passing any laws. His life changes when he becomes obsessed with beating the Soviet Union by using his seat on two powerful committees to begin funneling money and weapons to Afghan rebels.
If you enjoyed the success of recent films like The Passion, Chronicles of Narnia, and Amazing Grace, this film is further proof that inspirational and patriotic films have an audience. (I don't want to go to far in comparing this film to those movies -- CWW isn't likely to be screened at any churches -- but my guess is this positive and patriotic film will likely do much better than the plaintive war films that have come out this year, such as Lions for Lambs.)
Without a doubt, the best performance in the movie comes from Philip Seymour Hoffman, who portrays Gust Avrakotos, the CIA case officer who helps Wilson procure arms for the Afghan rebels, and provides some comic-relief (the character is a bit reminiscent of John Goodman's character from The Big Lebowski). In a lesser movie, Hoffman's performance would have completely stolen the show, but in this movie, he’s just icing on an already delicious cake. Count on him to win best supporting actor.
In order to establish his prurient nature, and thus drive home the story of his redemption, there are some gratuitous scenes in the beginning which aren't suitable for younger viewers.
And perhaps most disappointing is the film’s failure to give credit to the man who did the most to win the cold war, Ronald Reagan. This omission was clearly intentional (Tom Hanks, after all, is involved), and is corrected by Charlie Wilson himself, in the History Channel's historical perspective of the film. Nobody would have expected the movie to be about Reagan, but making a movie about winning the cold war that doesn’t reference Reagan is a bit like making a movie about the Revolutionary War that doesn’t reference George Washington.
Still, the film is well worth seeing, and viewers will be better for having seen it. While many heroes were involved in winning the cold war, the Afghanistan war is often viewed as the coup de grace for the Soviets. As such, it is entirely true that Charlie Wilson was a hero of the cold war.
Lastly, the movie raises the point that the “freedom fighters” we supported in order to beat the Soviets are in many cases the very terrorists we are confronting today.
This debate is good to have, and it’s also good to remind folks that not too long ago, the Soviet Union was an Evil Empire bent on growing that Empire.
If you're looking for a smart and entertaining movie to see during Christmas, this is it ...