Monday, January 19, 2015

a man of no particular importance

In the film Charlie Wilson's War, when the war turns around for the Afghans, as they've received modern weapons which can shoot down the Soviets' helicopters, the background music changes to an upbeat march in a seemingly Middle Eastern style, with a high-soprano chorus. 

"Don't send us rice and bandages," the guy says to Congressman Wilson; "Give us weapons, so that we can shoot down their gunships."

Next is a sequence of battle-field shots, tanks getting blown up, helicopters and planes being shot out of the sky, supplies being moved across desert and mountains, in all kinds of weather...

...and back at Langley, CIA people discussing the war's progress.

"It was the Bamian-led group.  They set an ambush here" -- pointing at a projected map display -- "at the Fuladi Bridge."

Gust Avrakotos -- "What'd they get?"

-- Four supply trucks coming out of Bagram Airbase.
-- They hit a Soviet motorized rifle battalion on horseback?
-- You bet your ass.
-- These guys are pretty good...

[More battle scenes, shooting stuff out of the sky over Afghanistan.]

Captions in lettering that would have seemed like a modern "font" in the 1980s, appear at the lower-left part of the screen.  You can see the shooting, fire and smoke, & read the captions...

Spring 1987
34 Soviet helicopters destroyed

Spring 1987
21 fixed wing aircraft destroyed
[we see big guns being aimed]

Summer 1987
33 Soviet helicopters destroyed

Summer 1987
28 fixed wing aircraft destroyed

Summer 1987
67 tanks and armored personnel carriers destroyed

Fall 1987
41 Soviet helicopters destroyed.

Winter 1987-'88
83 tanks or armored personnel carriers destroyed.
[we see a winter landscape, snow-covered mountains, horses and people and mules walking, mules loaded with supplies]

Winter 1987 - '88
18 fixed wing aircraft destroyed
[weapons blasting away, the cheerful march-music playing;  The music carries the audience along, helping to tell the story.  The "good guys" -- the Afghans -- are starting to win.  Or -- they've stopped losing...]

Winter 1987-'88
22 Soviet helicopters destroyed
[we can see a helicopter on fire, in the battle area]

INT.  Government Office complex.

Henry Cravely, whom we saw early in the movie, the guy who had sidetracked Avrakotos' next career step -- Helsinki station chief ("I've spent the past three years learning FINNISH!!!!!!!!!!!")  is dressing up as Santa Claus for an office Christmas party. 

Behind him on the wall is a picture of President Reagan.

Harold Holt, the station chief in Islamabad who met Charlie Wilson with a desultory briefing toward the beginning of the film, is there ranting about the Afghan war:

"We can't control this thing anymore!  The man stood in my office in Islamabad, and I told him, 'A sudden influx of money..."

Cravely asks Holt to hand him the Santa beard.

Holt continues:  "...And weaponry..."
Cravely:  "Thank you."
Holt:  "I mean, how is it possible that this congressman, of no particular importance, is doing this by himself?"

-- You've got to admit, it's not unimpressive.

-- Is this the war we want to be fighting, Henry?  Huh?

Cravely continues putting on components of the Santa costume.

-- Harold, whatever he's doing, believe me, it's working.

[Missiles firing; back to battleground scenes.]

Ev'rybody's building the big ships and the boats
Some are building monuments
Others, jotting down notes
Ev'rybody's in despair
Ev'ry girl and boy
But when Quinn the Eskimo gets here
Ev'rybody's gonna jump for joy
Come all without, come all within
You'll not see nothing like the mighty Quinn

I like to do just like the rest, I like my sugar sweet
But guarding fumes and making haste
It ain't my cup of meat
Ev'rybody's 'neath the trees
Feeding pigeons on a limb
But when Quinn the Eskimo gets here
All the pigeons gonna run to him
Come all without, come all within
You'll not see nothing like the mighty Quinn

-- Bob Dylan


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