Most of the recent films we've seen about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq remind us what a drag those conflicts are, which may be why so few of us have bothered to go see them. Of course all wars are terrible, but good movies have a way of mitigating that dreary fact even as they acknowledge it. Take the cold war: a "long twilight struggle" (as John F. Kennedy put it) that brought the world to the brink of annihilation and provided a persistent source of tension, anxiety and dread for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Horrible, to be sure. But also kind of a blast.
That, at any rate, is pretty much the gist of "Charlie Wilson's War," which may be more of a hoot than any picture dealing with the bloody, protracted fight between the Soviet Army and the Afghan mujahedeen has any right to be. As the film observes, that fight, in which the United States semi-secretly armed Muslim anti-imperialist freedom fighters for much of the 1980s, was a prequel to later trouble with anti-Western Islamic terrorists in Afghanistan and elsewhere.