It's the weekend and the time of the week where many Americans will go to the beloved movie theater. Of course we all know Batman vs. Superman is playing this weekend after months of over-hype. For those who are turned off by the poor critical reception, there's always box-office hit Zootopia (which I've heard is quite good actually). Deadpool and Zootopia have clearly been the most talked about films of the year so far, but unfortunately in their hype everyone's overlooked a movie that deserves more attention: the Tina Fey-headlined, war dramedy Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.
For fans of Tina Fey, you already know she's a woman in Hollywood who's her own boss. Her Sarah Palin on Saturday Night Live brought laughter across the country and her acclaimed series 30 Rock is one of the greatest sitcoms of all-time. And not to mention, she's also behind the cult comedy Mean Girls (she wrote the screenplay). Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is a slight change of pace from these projects, but nevertheless a film that's a pleasant surprise.
First off, the film is not "Tina Fey and Margot Robbie party hard in Afghanistan" like the trailers presented it. It's an interesting mix of war action, comedy, drama, and a little bit of romance. Margot Robbie is also more of a side character, not really a co-star with Fey. However, this gives Fey more time to shine in a role which has more depth than arguably any other role she's been in.
The film, which is based on a book, follows Kim Baker (Tina Fey), a journalist in New York who's sent to Afghanistan as a war correspondent during Operation Enduring Freedom. She leaves her boyfriend behind and accepts the job, hoping to find new fulfillment in her disappointing life. What she discovers is a new side to humanity as she is quickly forced to step out of her comfort zone. There's definitely more to it then that, but it's tough to discuss everything that happens without ruining the movie.
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is filled with solid talent besides Tina Fey in the lead role. Robbie doesn't have much to do, but is good whenever she's on screen. Billy Bob Thornton is hilarious and cynical in a supporting role as a Marines general (he gives us the classic Billy Bob charm). Martin Freeman (Sherlock, The Hobbit, Fargo) surprised me in a great supporting role as Kim's love interest. Alfred Molina (I know him as Doc Ock in Spiderman 2) is pretty good as an Afghan government figure. Relatively unknown actor Christopher Abbott really stood out to me as Kim's Afghan "fixer," he really puts some heart into this role.
Tone-wise, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot doesn't establish a clear one. This may turn away some people, but the excellent cast, good direction, and a solid screenplay make it work. It reminded me of David O. Russell's underrated black comedy Three Kings. Overall, the film definitely questions how the U.S. media handled the Global War on Terrorism and our country's perception of people overseas. The film doesn't say anything that hasn't been said before, but it does leave the viewer with a good message.
Don't go into this film expecting to laugh out loud for an hour and 50 minutes. Tina Fey, Freeman, Abbott, and Thornton provide some solid laughs, but there are plenty moments of heartfelt humanity and a few surprises. And there is a little bit of action, but nothing like Saving Private Ryan or Lone Survivor. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot finds a way to successfully genre-blend, something that is very difficult to pull off and for that reason I would definitely recommend it.