- on Friday, 04 March 2016 16:39
- by Frank Wilkins
If we’re to believe the marketing folks over at Paramount, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is another broad Tina Fey comedy. Then again, they’re the same guys whose Zoolander 2 trailer broke the internet last fall as the most successful comedy trailer launch of all time with more than 52 million views in a single week. That film was so bad, it may take the studio years to regain the trust of trailer watchers.
Sure, figuring out how to market a film about a middle aged female war correspondent who goes to Afghanistan to jump start her stalled career is no easy feat in today’s climate. After all, people are tired of war, sick of the mess in the middle east, and certainly have very little interest in watching a film about it all. So, what better way to draw attention, than to piggy-back the star of one of Hollywood’s funniest comedians and make us believe that Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is another Tina Fey comedy? I certainly bought it.
Only this time the joke’s on us as WTF (get it?) isn’t a comedy at all. It’s actually a light-hearted drama – a biography, really – whose appeal comes not from the expected mile-a-minute guffaws, but rather from the pleasant surprise of Fey’s raw dramatic turn as Kim Baker in the real-life story of a woman trying to put her life back together in a place where everything is falling apart. Rather than go for broad laughs, Fey uses her signature brand of sharp-tongued wit as her character’s defense mechanism to counter the absurdity of the war she is covering in Afghanistan.
The film, based on Kim Barker’s (her last name changed for the film) memoir titled The Taliban Shuffle, is a fresh and brutally honest take on the comic pairing of a novice American female reporter in a land of body-covering burkas, secret sex lives, and a war beginning to make less and less sense. Her carer as a script writer for the evening news at a standstill, Baker willingly accepts the challenge. She’s single and childless which fits the network’s criteria for volunteers for reporting in Afghanistan.
Upon her arrival in Kabul, Baker almost immediately regrets her decision as she knows nothing of the culture or the country’s language. She’s quickly reminded that Afghanis are currency and the people are Afghans. But dependent upon the her fixers and handlers, she heads out in full battle gear to capture footage and send home a feel for what’s happening over there.
Soon after arriving, the ongoing developments in Iraq begin to take center stage over Afghanistan, leaving Baker struggling for survival as well as for her job. But there’s always the 24-hour fun and excitement of the “Kabubble” – the affectionate term for the ramshackle dorm-like party headquarters of world journalists – to supplant her fading addiction to the rush of combat adrenaline.
While staying at the “Kabubble,” Baker befriends British correspondent Tanya Vanderpoel (Margot Robbie), and Scottish photojournalist Iain MacKelpie (Martin Freeman) who form her immediate social circle. A buff New Zealand bodyguard (Stephan Peacock), Billy Bob Thornton as crusty American General Hollanek and Alfred Molina as Afghanistan’s pompous Attorney General round out the supporting cast.
Directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, working from a script adapted by Robert Carlock, successfully capture the tantalizing mixture of dark comedy and paralyzing terror that reflect the ridiculousness of Baker’s situation. Amid the falling bombs and failed diplomacy, she is forming a new life of dating, partying, and reporting while also being scared for her life.
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot isn’t a great movie, nor is it the hilarious comedy the trailers would lead us to believe. However, it is a refreshingly different take on the standard fish out of water tale. The filmmakers never take a political stance on Afghanistan or the war, but they have tons to say about a lost woman who finds herself in a part of the world where women are expected to disappear. There’s a lot of R-rated grit, grime, and sex, and even a much darker Tina Fey than we’ve ever seen. We now know the size of the bite she can take out of a meaty role. Feed her.
MPAA Rating: R for pervasive language, some sexual content, drug use and violent war images
Runtime: 112 mins
Director: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa
Writer: Robert Carlock
Cast: Tina Fey, Margot Robbie, Martin Freeman
Genre: Comedy | War
Tagline: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
Memorable Movie Quote: "Afghanis are currency and the people of Afghans"
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Official Site: http://www.whiskeytangofoxtrotthemovie.com/
Release Date: March 4, 2016
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: No details available.
Synopsis: When reporter, Kim Baker's (Tina Fey) life needs something more, she decides to "shake it all up" by taking an assignment in a war zone. There, in the midst of chaos, she finds the strength she never knew she had.
No details available.