When we first meet Texas congressman Charlie Wilson, he’s naked in a Las Vegas hot tub full of coke-sniffing strippers and Playmates. But when he sees Dan Rather in a turban reporting from Afghanistan, he perks up and asks the bartender to turn up the TV.
That’s Wilson in a nutshell, a whiskey guzzling, tail-chasing believer in the good life, who just so happens to be extremely interested in the hottest front of the Cold War in the early ‘80s, Afghanistan, which the Soviet Union has just invaded (The Afghan people are, he notes, “the only people actually shooting at the Russians.”)
The two seemingly conflicting sides of the character amount to two character traits, and that’s about the extent to which director Mike Nichols, screenwriter Aaron Sorkin (working from the late George Crile’s non-fiction book of the same name), and Tom Hanks flesh Wilson out. Hanks’ co-stars similarly get two traits a piece.
Philip Seymour Hoffman (under tinted glasses, a moustache and funny hair) plays a CIA agent, who’s gruff and inelegant but earnest. A blonde Julia Roberts’s Texas fundraiser/activist is an ultra-right wing holy roller who shares Wilson’s love of a good time.
It was only a matter of time before Afghan writer Khaled Hosseini’s first novel was made into a film. The Oprah-touted, book club-beloved 2004 Kite Runner benefited from excellent timing, being released so relatively soon after the fall of the Taliban, and presenting story elements that most Americans were quick to appreciate and push, like the stark evil of the Taliban, America as land of opportunity and positive role model for Afghan people, and plenty of background on the day-to-day life of the country we still know so little about.
That it has so quickly become an awards-baiting film is perhaps just one more example of Hosseini’s luck with timing. His second book was just released this year, and we could probably use a nice big reminder that Afghanistan is full of real people facing some serious shit right about now, given the increasingly bad news coming from that front of the Global War on Terror, which, since 2003, seems like it’s merely been our other war instead of, you know, a priority of any kind.
Hosseini gets a writing credit on the film, though the screenplay is the work of David Benioff, who previously adapted The 25th Hour and the Illiad (turning it into the 2004 Brad Pitt vehicle Troy), and is responsible for the so-bad-it-must-be-seen-to-be-believed 2005 psychological thriller Stay. I haven’t read The Kite Runner myself, so I’m not sure how faithful it is to the book, but it seems like he kept in the most controversial element—the rape scenes that caused trouble for the boy actors and their families back in Afghanistan. The film is structured in a rather cliched form for a movie of this type, however.
Posted in Film
Tagged afghanistan, kites