Friday, March 4, 2016

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot: Movie Review


The female-side of war told in an entertaining and fascinating character study.
A movie about a female journalist covering the war in Afghanistan doesn’t exactly scream comedy, and getting the audience to accept that it is, is probably Whiskey Tango Foxtrot’s only misstep. The goal was to tell the female side of the story which is rarely its own subject. And that’s exactly what connected me to this movie, even if I wasn’t entirely enthralled by some its comedic details. 2016

Directed by: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa

Screenplay by: Robert Carlock
Based on book by Kim Barker

Starring: Tina Fey

Tina Fey stars as Kim Baker a small-time New York journalist who lives and works in a cubicle, barely has a boyfriend, who I’m not convinced actually knows she’s alive, and is generally very self-unaware as she has drilled herself into the doldrums through monotony. The movie never sets itself up as a character study, but that is its strength in the writing and in Fey’s performance that connects everything together. This movie is about her and there wouldn’t be a movie if it wasn’t.

Connecting the audience to Kim was very efficiently done and her decision (or more accurately, her company’s decision) to cover the war in Afghanistan makes a lot of sense and we’re on board for Kim’s adventure and the meat of the movie to kick in.
Left to right: Tina Fey plays Kim Baker and Margot Robbie plays Tanya Vanderpoel in
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot from Paramount Pictures and Broadway Video/Little Stranger Productions.
Photo credit: Frank Masi
The establishing scenes in Kabul was where the movie struggled a little bit. They insisted it’s a comedy even though we’re in a war-torn dangerous environment, and we meet every character – some of whom are a brilliant counter-part to the brilliance of Fey’s Kim, while some of whom only seem to drag-out unnecessary scenes.

Not surprisingly the journalists’ quarters in Kabul are not exactly women-friendly and there was some decent comedy to be had in Kim trying to settle into her new home. She has one female friend, Margot Robbie as an Australian journalist, but I found her character very difficult to connect to. Her characteristics were never really established and she had a very high level of arrogance that is off-putting.

Ignoring the few scenes of partying, which for some reason the marketing department of Paramount Pictures really wanted to play up as the most important part of the movie, we eventually get to the heart of the movie. And that’s watching Kim trying to figure out how to cover the war. Her early struggles with her timidness getting in the way, or her gender being an issue are all very important in the over-all story the movie is trying to tell.

My favorite supporting character was Martin Freeman as Iain, a Scottish journalist who was never too shy to hit on Kim. While there is a romance storyline which I think really helps keep the audience connected to Kim, it’s never just about the romance.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is always about Kim. About how the war, and her decisions, and the decisions of those around her, change her. She was very relatable, but at the same time we get to see how different she really is. It’s about the female-side of war reporting, about how the media covers the war, and about how war changes the people who cover it. All delivered in an entertaining movie.
Best of 2016