THE STORY – In 2002, cable news producer Kim Barker (Tina Fey) decides to shake up her routine by taking a daring new assignment in Kabul, Afghanistan. Dislodged from her comfortable American lifestyle, Barker finds herself in the middle of an out-of-control war zone. Luckily, she meets Tanya Vanderpoel (Margot Robbie), a fellow journalist who takes the shellshocked reporter under her wing. Amid the militants, warlords and nighttime partying, Barker discovers the key to becoming a successful correspondent.
THE CAST – Tina Fey, Margot Robbie, Martin Freeman, Alfred Molina, Christopher Abbott & Billy Bob Thornton
THE TEAM – Glenn Ficarra & John Sequa (Directors) & Robert Carlock (Writer)
THE RUNNING TIME – 112 Minutes
By Matt N.
“Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” is a starring vehicle for Tina Fey that suffers from mismarketing. The studio has tried to make this film look like a comedy when it is more so a drama with comedic elements thrown in. Unfortunately, those comedic elements aren’t all that funny nor interesting as writer Robert Carlock seems like he has a lot he wants to say about our involvement in Afghanistan but ends up saying very little. The result is a forgettable film that fails to please any segment of its target audience.
Kim Baker (Tina Fey) is a network news correspondent who is living in New York with a serious boyfriend but is frustrated with her ordinary desk job and is looking for something new in her life. When her boss asks for volunteers to embark on a 3-month stay in Afghanistan during 2003 to report on “Operation Enduring Freedom,” Kim jumps at the opportunity. During her stay in Afghanistan, she encounters a slew of people from the General of the marine corps she is interviewing named General Hollanek (Billy Bob Thornton), to another beautiful British reporter named Tanya Vanderpoel (Margot Robbie), to a local government official named Ali Massoud Sadiq (Alfred Molina), and finally a Scottish photographer named Iain MacKelpie (Martin Freeman). They all play a part in turning Kim’s 3-month stay into a multi-year experience that she becomes addicted to the deeper she immerses herself into her job and into the lives of others who live there.
“Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” can’t decide if it wants to be a war-time satire much in the same vein as “MASH” in an attempt to exploit the goofy and ridiculousness of another country’s culture or if it wants to be a serious character study of a woman who loses herself in her occupation, or if it wants to be a “fish out of water” story for our protagonist. It tries to be all of these but ultimately fails to be any of them. A lot of the humor in this film takes strikes at females living in Afghanistan and how they are treated and viewed through the eyes of our very own female protagonist. It’s a serious subject that should be treated with delicacy but the film handles it with an immaturity due to its desire to be satirical in its critical viewpoint. The result is an uneven messy film that can border on the offensive side of things for not only women, but our country’s brave soldiers who put their lives on the line overseas in countries such as Afghanistan every day, and not to mention the very people who populate Afghanistan and its surrounding countries who are caught up in terrible circumstances.
Despite the constant unfunny references to sex, alcohol, and politically incorrect humor, the film does find it’s heart in a tender relationship that develops between Kim Baker and Iain MacKelpie. Martin Freeman is an actor who constantly raises the quality of any film he stars in and it’s his scenes that have the most energy, especially when they are being shared with Tina Fey. The chemistry between them is undeniable despite their storyline’s going through a predictable path. And Tina Fey is pretty strong here as the film does play to her strengths as a comedic actress while allowing for a depth and vulnerability that starts to show as her time in Afghanistan lengthens.
Unfortunately, most of the side characters that I mentioned don’t receive their own proper conclusions and don’t do much to service the story other than to present either a few amusing scenes (Such as Alfred Molina dancing for Tina Fey). Directors Glen Ficarra and John Requa (“Crazy Stupid Love” and “Focus”) fail to handle the many time jumps in the film well in establishing a clear passage of time for our characters and stumble in handling the film’s comedy. It’s an all around mess with good intentions but no real resonance. Thank god for the talents of Martin Freeman and Tina Fey, for without them, this film would’ve been a total disaster.
THE FINAL SCORE
THE GOOD – A comedic and sometimes dramatic performance from the talented Tina Fey is complimented by a charming turn from Martin Freeman.
THE BAD – A series of amusing scenes don’t add up to a proper whole. Not particularly funny nor dramatic despite Fey giving it her all.
THE OSCARS – None
THE FINAL SCORE – 3/10