Got to see an early screening of Whiskey Tango Foxtrot last night. Let’s talk.
A journalist recounts her wartime coverage in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Directors: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa
Writers: Robert Carlock (screenplay), Kim Barker (based on the book “The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan” by)
Stars: Tina Fey, Margot Robbie, Martin Freeman, Alfred Molina
From watching the trailers, you might think that this is some sort of super-funny Tina Fey vehicle. but it’s not. Sure, the film has its comedic moments, but that’s what they are: moments. It’s not a comedy, but rather an examination of one woman’s life in a war zone.
Based on the book “Taliban Shuffle” by Kim Barker, Tina Fey (playing the incredibly deceptively-named Kim Baker) presents a fairly subdued, straight-forward performance, akin to the tone she adopted in This is Where I Leave You a few years back. But where that was an ensemble piece, here she carries most of the load.
And she does it pretty well.
From her initial decision to leave her familiar cubicle to head out as a field correspondent when the war on terror (and the media’s “talent”)shifts from Afghanistan to Iraq, to her slow decline into the lifestyle of the adrenaline-junkie reporters and security folks who have spent years in war zones across the world, Fey never lets the story run off the rails into pure comedy. Instead, she gives us a woman searching for meaning. Maybe that search and its difficulties isn’t on a par with Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, but the idea is the same.
She deals with rejection and deception at home (boyfriend), deception and disloyalty in Afghanistan (a fellow female reporter, played by Margo Robbie, in a great performance), an over-amorous admirer in the Afghan government (Alfred Molina, who is always great), and an unexpected romance (?) in the form of a Scottish photo-journalist (Martin Freeman).
All of these moving parts are balanced on the psyche of Baker, and Fey’s portrayal of it. Situations that could have been played strictly for laughs are instead mined for the emotional riches they should have, allowing the film to keep it semi-serious tone, while also acknowledging the sometimes ridiculous circumstances in which the media–and military–find themselves in such a place.
So let me, in my best Martin Freeman, just say that the best thing about this movie is that Tina Fey doesn’t muck it up by “over Tina-Fey-ing” it. She lets the movie, and her character, play itself out, while showing us the humanity to make us care about her.
Well worth the watch, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is definitely a date movie, offering something for everyone.