American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
"Charlie Wilson's War" is said to be based on fact, and I have no reason to doubt that. It stars Tom Hanks as Rep. Charles Wilson, a swinging, hard-drinking, coke-using liberal Democrat from Texas who more or less single-handedly defeated the Russians in Afghanistan. Yes. The Soviets withdrew in 1989, the Berlin Wall fell, the Cold War was over, and Ronald Reagan got all the credit. How could Wilson's operation have taken place without anyone knowing? If Ollie North's activities could, why not these?
Here's how it all happened, told in a sharp-edged political comedy directed by Mike Nichols and written by Aaron ("The West Wing") Sorkin. Charlie Wilson, whose personal life was shall we say untidy, was popular in the 2nd Congressional District of Texas because he never met a pork-barrel project he didn't like, especially if it meant federal funds for the 2nd Congressional District of Texas. Apart from that, nobody back home much cared that he was a good ol' boy who liked company in a hot tub and was rarely without a drink in his hand.
He had a soft spot for a right-wing Houston millionaire socialite named Joanne Herring (Julia Roberts), a sometime TV talk-show hostess, who hated the commies and wanted them to stop killing the brave Afghans. She had some connections, since she was an honorary consul to Pakistan.
She told Charlie the Afghans need weapons to shoot down Russian helicopters. Since he was on the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, he was ideally placed to help them. Problem was, the United States couldn't afford to have American-made weapons found in Afghanistan. Herring's solution: The Israelis had lots of shoulder-mounted Soviet-made anti-aircraft weapons, which they could supply to the Afghans through the back channel of Pakistan? What? asks Charlie. Pakistan and Israel working together?