By Nico Beland
Movie Review: B- (3 stars)
From directors Glen Ficarra and John Requa (I Love You Phillip Morris, Crazy Stupid Love, Focus) comes a war dramedy based on the memoir, The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days In Afghanistan and Pakistan by American journalist, Kim Barker, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, which stars Tina Fey (30 Rock, Baby Mama, Sisters) as Barker as she journeys through Afghanistan and Pakistan as a war correspondent during Operation Enduring Freedom. My knowledge of the actual event is very small but I am a huge fan of Tina Fey’s work as an actress so I decided to check this movie out and it’s a pretty different kind of Tina Fey film compared to her other work.
I’m not kidding, I was expecting this to be more of a satire of life at war when I saw the ads, but the film does a solid job balancing between typical Tina Fey style comedy with gripping drama and I never would have imagined she’d be able to do something like this. The film has its intense moments, slow moments, funny moments, dramatic moments, and it has time to develop most of the characters.
Don’t expect a Tina Fey laugh fest, I cannot stretch this enough, yes the film is funny at times, yes Tina Fey can be her same old goofy self, but the film does bring in some intense war violence and drama which may turn some people off. Yeah, and I thought I was going to get a laugh-fest out of this, Nah, I’m just kidding I knew what I was getting myself into.
The film follows television journalist, Kim Barker (Fey) dissatisfied with the state of her low-profile career covering stories, so she agrees to take a short assignment as a war correspondent in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom to the disappointment of her always traveling boyfriend. Assigned low-budget living quarters with other journalists, she begins to make friends with Australian correspondent, Tanya Vanderpoel (Margot Robbie-The Wolf of Wall Street, Focus, Suicide Squad) and openly lecherous Scottish photographer, Iain MacKelpie (Martin Freeman-The Hobbit trilogy, The World’s End, Captain America: Civil War).
In time, her assignment goes along well, eliciting frank remarks on camera from soldiers that question her assignment and putting herself in harm’s way just to cover the story (Reminds me a lot of April O’Neil from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles now that I think about it!) and capture combat incidents on video. American Marines commander, General Hollanek (Billy Bob Thornton-Tombstone, Sling Blade, Monster’s Ball) take a dim view on Kim as an inexperienced nuisance.
Kim stays in Afghanistan for months to get her story covered and eventually leads her to Afghan governmental figure, Ali Massoud Sadiq (Alfred Molina-Raiders of the Lost Ark, Spider-Man 2, Rango) who warns her that danger can be a drug.
Overall, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is a decent take on the “True Story” drama film genre, especially because they threw in some comedy, which is unusual but it helps it differ from other films in the category. Who would have guessed a Tina Fey movie could be intense and dramatic? That’s proof right there she is capable of doing different types of films and it certainly paid off.
Though it’s probably not the most accurate dramatization of what really happened during the film’s time period and there was probably a lot less laughing than the amount in this movie. In terms of being an entertaining movie, it does its job well, the cast is engaging, the action is gripping, and the dialogue can be a little witty.
To be honest, the best thing about the movie is the cast, Tina Fey as the reporter determined to get her story, that works, Margot Robbie and Martin Freeman as the support, that’s also good, Billy Bob Thornton as the Marine general, obviously works, and Alfred Molina’s performance is both welcoming and frightening at the same time, definitely a more intimidating performance than Doctor Octopus from Spider-Man 2.
If you want a more serious take on Tina Fey, you’ll probably get the movie you’re looking for here. Though don’t expect a comedic laugh-fest here, unless you find a guy getting his eye shot out funny, if so you have issues and I never ever want to meet you in person.