"If you like your war movies worthy, pious and starring Susan Sarandon as the teary-eyed mom of a 22-year-old boy sent to his death by the Bastard Bush, then you should probably avoid Charlie Wilson’s War. There’s no simplistic antiwar message here, or even a simpleton antiwar message of the sort spouted by Sean Penn or Tim Robbins. Instead, this is a tightly-scripted, borderline slapstick comedy about America’s secretive arming of the Mujahideen during the Afghan-Soviet war of the 1980s. And guess what? It reveals far more about contemporary America and what lies behind its interventionist zeal than all of those achingly guilt-ridden films about lions, lambs and dead American soldiers put together.
This is a war movie with a difference. Where the execrable Lions for Lambs was largely a vehicle for Robert Redford and Tom Cruise to register their distaste for the war in Iraq, and Rendition sacrificed pace, plot and good acting to tell the tale of an evil CIA woman (Meryl Streep, effectively resurrecting her bitchy role from The Devil Wears Prada) and an innocent Egyptian terror suspect, Charlie Wilson’s War remembers to include a storyline and character development. And because its overarching aim is not to advertise its stars’ and producers’ narcissistic antiwar credentials, but rather to give us a story, encounters, sex, politics, it manages to paint a truer picture of America’s relationship with the Middle East than the black-and-white, conspiracy-driven drivel offered by the likes of George Clooney (Syriana) and Michael Moore (Fahrenheit 9/11).
If you like simplistic morality tales in which American administrations conquer the world in order to plunder its oil, and where the only redeemable characters are those brave Hollywood souls willing to make films about it, then go see the new Susan Sarandon vehicle,...
Brendan O’Neill, writing in Spiked!