Sometimes the true stories are the hardest to believe and this Mike Nichol's directed film is a doozy.
Tom Hanks plays real life Texas Congressman Charlie Wilson. A democrat (a fact that was curiously omitted in the film) in a democrat controlled Congress under President Regan.
Wilson is a heavy drinking party guy who has a bevy of young, beautiful women working in his office, whom he refers to as "jail bait." He hasn't passed anything of consequence during his seven term tenure and gets along by racking up IOU's in exchange for his vote.
But, that all changes when he gets a call from wealthy socialite Joanne Herring (Julie Roberts - made up to look like a big-haired Barbie doll). She raises millions of dollars for different causes (the film tells us that she's a right-wing Republican) and she wants Wilson to get involved in her latest passion, funding the freedom fighters in Afghanistan against the Russians.
Wilson is a member of the Intelligence Appropriation Committee and she arranges for him to meet with the President of Pakistan the next day. But a side trip to Afghanistan to view the slaughter of innocent women and kids seals the deal for Wilson.
Wilson links up with Gust Avrakotoz (Philip Seymour Hoffman) a rogue CIA agent and with lots of vote paybacks, soon what was once a mere $5 million appropriation becomes a $500 million budget item, with a matching amount from the Saudis.
The money allows the Afghanistan rebels to get hi-tech artillery to fight off the Russians and things begin to turn in the favor of the underdogs in the war.
Hanks is totally believable as the carousing, irresistibly naughty Congressman. His role is bigger than life, but he pulls it off. Roberts is fun to watch, however the Texas twang seems a bit forced.
Hoffman is a real hoot as the cantankerous facilitator. He doesn't care what he says or whose toes he steps on to get the job done.
Aaron Sorkit (TV's "West Wing") has written a cohesive, smart and richly entertaining view of a piece of Cold War history. It's a wild ride full of war, sex, spies and how U.S. tax dollars are sometimes secretly spent.