Although it plays out like a typical screwball comedy, this scathing political satire starring Tom Hanks is actually based on a strange-but-true story.

Hanks enjoys himself as roguish Texan congressman Charlie Wilson, whose main preoccupations were loose women, alcohol and political chicanery.

Then, in the 1980s, Wilson suddenly developed a conscience about the plight of the mujahideen in Afghanistan, who were fighting against the occupancy of their country by Soviet troops.

With the help of a Bible-thumping Southern heiress (Julia Roberts) and a cynical CIA agent (Philip Seymour Hoffman, who was nominated for an Oscar), Wilson brokered an improbable deal between Pakistan, Israel and America to covertly begin shipping hi-tech Russian weaponry to the Afghans.

It’s a story that’s so far-fetched, you really couldn’t make it up. The sting in this tale is that it was the US government’s total lack of understanding as to the situation in Afghanistan that eventually led to the rise of the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

Fine performances and a witty script from The West Wing writer Aaron Sorkin provide veteran director Mike Nichols with one of his sharpest and funniest films and they’re helped immensely by the spot-on cast.