Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (2016)

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (2016)
  • Time: 112 min
  • Genre: Comedy | War
  • Directors: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa
  • Cast: Tina Fey, Margot Robbie, Billy Bob Thornton, Martin Freeman


A journalist recounts her wartime coverage in Afghanistan and Pakistan.


  • As Kim’s faithful doctor/translator warns her, the adventurer’s adrenalin rush can be very addictive. You keep needing another fix.
    That’s the film’s central theme. What makes this film important is how that point works on the national political level as well as on the personal.
    The personal level is obvious. Kim (Tina Fey) is a TV news writer who risks a three-month assignment to report on camera from the Afghanistan war. Hooked by the thrills she grows increasingly foolhardy. In a domestic parallel, her lover back home starts sleeping around and. blames her for being absent.
    Kim’s translator soon quits rather than risk widowing his new wife. The other journalists and cameramen experience the same rush that compels them to stay. Their every danger and thrill leave them craving another, bigger one. Their addiction drives them to betray each other, however close they may have drawn.
    Only when Kim realizes that mortal danger has become her new normalcy — and sees its controlling, distracting effect on her Scottish lover — does she fly back to America. There she takes a high profile posting in NYC or Washington. There the drama is domesticated.
    That dynamic also plays out on Kim’s network. The news department has a woman boss but she reads its needs the same way a swaggering man would. The network needs new stories, new locations, to hook the jaded audience.
    The key point is that a nation can also get hooked on war. The film is cross between MASH and Eisenhower’s warning about the military-industrial complex.
    Billy Bob Thornton plays a worldly marine officer who leaps at Kim’s plan for a filmed rescue of a kidnapped Scot (her lover, as it happens). The commander has practical considerations in mind — he needs a spectacular success to bolster his budget. But the thrill is the real draw. Like the politicos at home, the commander and Kim stay safely on base while the troops go out to risk their lives. Kim’s visit to an interviewee who had both legs blown off underlines the human costs of the nation’s military glory.
    In the context of the US presidential election, the film conveys the Democrat party’s reluctance to get America embroiled in yet another distant war, especially where the culture is so different as to be incomprehensible and the adventure of unlikely success. The producers include Fey and Lorne Michaels, also of Saturday Night Live.
    If Trump, Cruze and Rubio could think about what the film is saying they would be mightily offended. As is, they might well enjoy it. Except for the profane language, which Cruze and Rubio would loudly object to — and Trump would trump.

  • Here comes another based on truth story. In this case, it’s a divisive situation that has strong supports on either side. Worse yet, there is humor but no saving grace until the very end. The problem is, however, I seem to be in strong disagreement with other reviewers. I found this movie to be funny, thought provoking, and more honest than many other war movies.
    Screenwriter Robert Carlock had his hands full trying to concentrate the contents of Kim Barker’s book The Taliban Shuffle. He finally cuts to the chase and just lists the years on screen so we know how much time has passed. This creates a slight feeling of missing elements like learning a language, figuring the ins and outs of how things work over there for both sides, and who can you trust. Some of this we just have to take on faith and if you can do that, and accept that something has happened even if we didn’t see it, you can easily follow the movie.
    Directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa have worked together on several films and, in this one, produce seamless, even work. The pace is good with shots that show how the press’s world was crowded while the country’s world was wide open and empty as soon as you moved out of a city.
    Obviously, Tina Fey is the lead character, Kim Baker, and she does a very good job. Too often her delivery is the same as she would use on TV but if it fits and it works, so what. The personal journey the character moves through is the heart of the movie. Whether it came from her, the directors, or other people, the actors who are all around her make this movie work in ways that Fey alone couldn’t do.
    Martin Freeman plays Iain MacKelpie, a jaded photo journalist. Alfred Molina plays Ali Massoud Sadiq a government official who becomes a fine example of corruption of his faith. Billy Bob Thornton is the make-no-excuses, get-the-job-done General Hollanek who is also more human than almost any of the other military people. Finally, don’t blink or you will miss her, Cherry Jones plays one of the bosses at Kim’s network. All of these performers make Kim’s Afgan experience look more real in this film. The trick being, we’re watching a movie not actually watching the conflict. It is important to remember. This movie is not a documentary but a work of fiction based on truth.
    I give this movie 4 scarves out of 5. Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot is a good movie, maybe not one of the best but still an entertaining well told a story.

  • Loosely based on Kim Hunter’s memoir The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (military-alphabet-speak for WTF) stars Tina Fey as Kim Baker, a general producer who writes news copy who decides to break her personal and professional inertia by embedding herself as a television news reporter in Afghanistan. It’s a little Eat Pray Love by way of Zero Dark Thirty, and if one thinks that ought not to work, then pat yourself on the back for this seriocomic fish-out-of-water tale really strives to find narrative traction and tonal consistency despite a very good lead performance from Fey.

    Childless and unmarried, Kim is a prime candidate for the three-month stint in Kabul. She does have a boyfriend (Josh Charles), but it obviously says something about the state of her mind about their relationship that she would up sticks and plunge herself in the Kabubble, the world comprised of fellow journalists, crewmen, security guards, and local fixers and translators, most of whom offset the dangers of their profession by partying hard. Take hot to trot bombshell and rival reporter Tanya Vanderpoel (Margot Robbie), who immediately takes Kim aside to ask if she can sleep with Kim’s security team. Tanya also informs Kim that, here in Afghanistan, she is a “serious piece of ass,” a borderline 9 compared to the 4 or 5 she would have rated back in the States, so she should take advantage, boyfriend or no boyfriend. Oh, and under no circumstances should Kim fall for the charms of and sleep with Iain MacKelpie (Martin Freeman), an amorous freelance photographer whose Scottish brogue distracts from his often rude behaviour.

    Naturally Kim and Iain fall into bed despite their barbed banter. Just as naturally, Kim will make one mistake after another before proving her mettle to General Hollanek and his team of Marines when she jumps into the fray of a firefight, camera in hand, despite the protests of her local guide Fahim (Christopher Abbott), who later warns her of getting too addicted to perilous situations – that’s how mistakes are made and people get hurt. The professional relationship between Kim and Fahim is arguably the most interesting in the movie, primarily due to Abbott’s endearing and excellent performance and secondarily because, despite the whitewashing of the casting, their cultural differences fuel their mutual respect for one another.

    If screenwriter Robert Carlock had focused on Kim and Fahim’s rapport, or Kim’s determination to report more women-centric stories rather than the ones the network brass keep wanting her to do, or even how a little bit of grit goes a long way in any modern profession, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot might have made for more engaging viewing. Instead, the whole enterprise feels meandering and noncommittal. And what were directors Glen Ficarra and John Requa thinking when they decided to score a rescue operation to the tune of “Without You”? It just seems like such a boneheaded choice, and it’s moments like that which typify the film’s uninvested stance in the story or stories it’s trying to tell.

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