Sunday, March 6

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot Review

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
Dir: Glenn Ficarra and John Requa
Starring: Tina Fey, Martin Freeman, Margo Robbie, Alfred Molina, Nicholas Braun, Christopher Abbott, and Billy Bob Thornton

While waiting to enter the theater for “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” this conversation was heard between two film friends.  The young man says, “Remember that funny movie about the war?” With a blank look the friend responded, “I didn’t realize they made funny movies about the war.”  With an equally puzzled look the young man exclaimed, “Of course they do, we just watched “Dr. Strangelove.”” With head shaking assurance the friend replies, “There is nothing funny about that movie and don’t bother bringing up “M.A.S.H.” either.” War has, and will continue to be, satirized through the lens of film. Going back to the classic comedy film from Charlie Chaplin, “The Great Dictator”, or the absurdist charm of Bill Murray, John Candy, and Harold Ramis joining the army, “Stripes”, or the films mentioned by our friend at the theater, war is tragedy and to coupe with this emotion many films turn to comedy as a remedy.  This brings us to “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot”, a film based on real journalist Kim Barker and her travels told in the novel “The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days In Afghanistan and Pakistan”. Tina Fey is delightful in the lead, holding together this comedic yet highly superficial look at wartime conflict. 

Kim Baker (Tina Fey) works for a television news outlet, though her role isn’t in front of the camera but rather in a cubicle writing the news for other people to report. Kim is frustrated, stuck in a life of mundane routines. An opportunity is given her to take a tour of duty as a war correspondent in the devastated and dangerous Afghanistan. After clumsy introductions with security personnel, a stern warning from a Marine General (Billy Bob Thornton), and surviving an ambush all while holding a camera, Kim begins to find her calling.

“Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” falls in this awkward place of balancing between being comedic and being dramatic. Between showing what war in a society where women must hide their faces under cloth could do to a woman looking for identity and between cheaply displaying the Hollywood themes that infiltrate film portrayals of single women. It’s a balancing act that never finds a comfortable place to exist, while some will be wholly satisfied with the well-earned laughs and the safe depictions of war there was potential to take this film to a place that would have allowed the talented Ms. Fey to demonstrate her dramatic side since it has already been well-established that she can easily garner a laugh. This doesn’t mean that the violence needed to be devastatingly graphic but rather that the implications and emotional outcomes of violence could have played a role in displaying the danger and tension for the soldiers and civilians. The stress for these correspondents is instead implied, with scenes of hard partying and fast sexual encounters, displaying that the dangers outside the safety net of the compound is affecting everyone in different ways. This back and fourth consistently undermines the good parts in the narrative, like the strong and confident female presence seen initially with a rival correspondent (Margot Robbie) and then transitioning to Kim Baker as she begins to embrace the adrenaline of finding a story amidst the conflict. Or the hint of how women coupe with their restrictive societies in an abbreviated scene where Kim is guided to a story in a small village.

“Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” is kept together by a few good performances. Ms. Fey isn’t given many opportunities to do more than what she does best, which is utilizing her impressive patience for timing a well-placed joke. Martin Freeman, playing an egotistical war photographer, creates nice chemistry with Ms. Fey but also has a few comedic scene stealing moments. Alfred Molina on the other hand makes a strange cameo as a high-ranking official from Afghanistan, womanizing Kim Baker at every available moment.   

There are moments when it seems like “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” is going for more than simple laughs, moments when the comedy looks to transcend the familiar repertoire and compose a different connection. This unfortunately never completely happens, making this warzone comedy feel like an easy-going exercise rather than the surreal satire it could have been.

Monte’s Rating

3.00 out of 5.00

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