Whiskey Tango Foxtrot Review

CAUGHT IN ITS OWN CROSSFIRE


 

Actress Tina Fey has had her fair share of comedic performance over the years, proving to be prolithic in her art as a comedian actress. First appearing on SNL (Saturday Night Live) as a writer for the show, before moving to a head writer and then a performer on the show, Fey comedic gags and skits were effective in producing laughter and amusement. From there, Fey created (and starred) in the television show 30 Rock, which ran for seven season, and was critical acclaimed by many. In addition, Fey has starred in several feature films, including Baby Mama, Date Night, and (most recently) Sisters. While the comedy genre has always been her forte, Fey, further developing her ability as an actress, has branched out into more dramatic roles with films like Admission and This is Where I Leave You. Traveling down that similar path, Fey embarks on another “less-comedic” film with Paramount Picture’s bio-pic Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. Does movie proved to be a suitable choice the Fey’s acting ability or is a complete misfire of a movie?

THE STORY


Unable to satisfy herself in her humdrum existence in a New York City newsroom, Kim Baker (Tina Fey) jumps at opportunity to become front line reporter in Afghani city of Kabul (roughly around the time when Afghanistan War is taken shape). Leaving behind her old life and her boyfriend Chris (Josh Charles), Kim finds herself overwhelmed with culture shock, dealing with Marine Leader Col. Hollanek (Billy Bob Thornton) and befriends fellow female reporter Tanya Vanderpoel (Margot Robbie). Getting the lay of the land from her interpreter Fahim (Christopher Abbot), Kim adjust to her life in Kabul, adhering to local customs and dress wardrobes, while trying to make her mark as a television new reporter. As the years pass, Kim follows the beats of her position in Kabul (its highs and lows points of her job description, taking a love interest in Scottish journalist Iain MacKelpie (Martin Freeman) and the flirtatious wooing from Prime Minster Sadiq (Alfred Molina), while trying to find a “juicy” noteworthy story in Afghanistan.

THE GOOD / THE BAD


What can I say…I like Tina Fey. Her comedy routines are really funny and amusing to watch. I love her SNL skits, especially the parody ones of her as Sarah Palin. Even in movies, she’s pretty. As I’m writing this review, I’m actually watching her recent feature Sisters (love that movie). But I digress, I’m talking about Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. I remember seeing the trailer for this in theaters (I think I saw it when I saw 13 Hours) and I thought it was interesting to see Fey in just a “different” role than what she’s you to playing. Thus, I decided purchase a movie ticket one afternoon to see it and, after seeing it, I felt that Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, while playing to Fey’s strengths, is just a passable episodic wartime drama pic.

In truth, the movie is based on the true life account of Kim Barker biography memoir book titled “The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan” and is brought to life by duo directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, who both collaborated before on the film Focus. There’s plenty to exam in this story and Ficarra and Requa play with a lot of idea, Kabul’s laws and Middle-Eastern cultures, the position on women’s “over there” and, of course, the U.S. involvement in the Afghanistan (however you take it). Screenplay writer Robert Carlock, a longtime collaborator of Tina Fey, pens the story for the movie and, of course, plays up to the movie’s strength, utilizing Fey’s comedic charm (a little dialed back, but still effective) as well as putting a little less “grim face” on Operation Enduring Freedom. There’s still dangerous elements, highlighting the gravitas of death and futility as Kim bounces Kabul and its surrounding provinces and witnesses the horrors of violence there, but there’s some “downtime” for the film to be a little palatable.

Though the movie portrays the U.S. war in the Middle-East with authenticity (that sort of look and feel that a viewer who expect to see), Whiskey Tango Foxtrot doesn’t feel as intense or enticing as it wants to be. In truth, the movie’s marketing campaign (trailers and TV Spots, etc.), seem to make the film more of a comedy than a drama (which the movie actually want is). Thus, I’m kind of torn between what this Foxtrot wants to be. The comedy is playful, but not uproariously funny and its drama is good, but nothing powerful or gripping. Even those expecting to see a lot of military action and intensity will be slightly disappointed as it watered down to a good of scenes. Ultimately, the movie falls somewhere between the two and can’t strike those extreme points (be it comedy or drama), making Whiskey Tango Foxtrot somewhat bland and (beyond Fey’s performance) can’t discern itself from similar feature out there.

Sadly, there’s seems to more of the tale of Whiskey Tango Foxtrot than what’s shown on-screen. The movie takes the stance of being an overview of Kim Baker’s adventure “over there”, but in a more episodic way, with minor scenarios of victories and setbacks playing throughout with obvious gaps in-between. Lastly, the film’s third act seems a little haphazard as things quickly happened, with several subplots, and sort of become unglued before trying wrap everything up.

In terms of the cast, Tina Fey leads the group in Whiskey Tango Foxtrot as Kim Baker (or rather the fictionalized cinematic version of real life Kim Barker). Fey delivers a generally solid role as Kim that’s relatable to most and (again) plays to the movie’s strength. Fey seems comfortable in the role (something that not too far out there for here to play) with a blend of light comedy mixed in some elements of the drama. Naturally, it’s a far cry from some of her comedic performance, but it’s another addition her body of theatrical performances.

Previously working with Requa and Ficarra on Focus, actress Margot Robbie slides in easy as the female TV report Tanya Vanderpoel, further establishing her acting career with a witty and charming new journalist. Plus, she’s drop dead gorgeous in this movie (seriously). Can’t wait to see her in Suicide Squad later this year. Lastly, actor Martin Freeman, famous for Sherlock and The Hobbit trilogy, is a likeable and enjoyable naughty Scottish journalist Ian MacKelpie, whose love interest with Kim follows down a predictable path, but at least Fey and Freeman help elevate notion with their acting performances.

In more supporting roles, Christopher Abbott plays the character of Fahim Ahmadzai, Kim’s assistant / interpreter for her on the field reporting. Abbott handles himself well and shares some great scenes with Tina Fey. Similarly, British actor Alfred Molina (a little strange that they picked up him to play a Middle-Eastern role) also shares some great scenes with Fey as the unapologetic and out-spoken government official Ali Massoud Sadiq. The rest of the supporting cast, including Billy Bob Thornton’s gruff General Hollanek and Nicholas Braun’s gawky Tall Brian. have smaller roles and are merely in the background, but offer some plenty of laughs and distractions for Fey’s Kim to interact with throughout the course of her journey.

FINAL THOUGHTS


Tina Fey gets a culture shock in her role as Kim Baker in the movie Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. Ficarra and Requa wartime bio pic is an interesting one, examining Kim Baker’s (and by extension the real Kim Barker) experience reporting in Afghanistan during turbulent times and is anchored with a likeable lead with Tina Fey and her fellow co-stars. Outside of that, the movie doesn’t resonate as strong as wants to be nor as it could be. There’s moments that work and some that don’t and (in the grand scheme of the feature) feels somewhat of a narrative hodgepodge. Personally, I thought that the movie was just okay. I didn’t have high expectations for this movie, so I’m not greatly upset by it. Fans of Tina Fey, might give this movie a shot. However, those looking for a gripping wartime drama or hard-hitting new journalism, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot isn’t the movie for you and is just a passable endeavor in almost all accounts and nuances.

3.1 Out of 5 (Iffy Choice)

 

Released On: March 15th, 2016
Reviewed On: March 17th, 2016

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot  is rated R for pervasive language, some sexual content, drug use and violent war images

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