Movie Review: ‘Whiskey Tango Foxtrot’

Review by Ashley Marie Wells

“Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” (aptly abbreviated WTF), based on Kim Barker’s memoir, “The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” gives us a fictionalized Barker in a vision of Tina Fey as Kim Baker, a New York news producer whose life is marked by fluorescent lighting, tame news stories, and a stationary bike with hefty mileage but nothing to show for. As stale as an opened pack of Saltine crackers abandoned on a countertop overnight, Kim opts to shake things up when opportunity calls for the unwed and childless to ship out to Afghanistan and try his or her hand at war correspondence. Kim steps away from her cubicle and into the streets of Kabul dishing us the absurd, the funny, and the predictable.

A fledgling to war reporting Kim slowly gains her bearings with the guidance of her soft spoken and prudent translator, driver, and overall cultural guide and helper Fahim (Christopher Abbott), a curt General Hollanek (Billy Bob Thornton) who is full of sharp one liners, and the full throttle partying fellow female reporter Tanya Vanderpoel (Margot Robbie). Kim navigates her way through the “Ka-bubble,” with its dusty crowded streets of veiled women, begging children, and hidden nooks housing hidden parties, trying to satiate her ever-growing need for danger and land a story her network can’t ignore.

Tina Fey is solid in her performance giving us nothing less than expected and perhaps nothing more; her Liz Lemon persona is definitely present. She’s witty, relatable, and despite any initial hesitancy or doubt, gives the task at hand a good go and takes it on the chin. In fact, everyone is solid from Martin Freeman as Iain MacKelpie, Kim’s love interest, who is crudely charming and balances the somewhat tightly wound Kim with an abundance lighthearted sparring and banter, to Alfred Molina as Ali Massoud Sadiq, a comical (at times cringeworthy) take on a seedy local official who has an overbearing crush on Kim Baker.

While Tina Fey’s character waltzes to and from interviews with warlords and frequently engages in high risk activities, “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” only scratches the surface, shining a very dim light on the situations in war torn Afghanistan in the mid-2000s. There’s no doubt that humor reigns and reigns well given the subject matter. But there lingering is a nagging feeling creeping to the forefront politely alerting me that this is just another film (in the vein of something like “Eat, Pray, Love”) about a middle class woman going through an existential crisis and decides the best option is to physically remove herself from her life and discover a new self in a “new” world of cultural babel. While this deception is disappointing (to a small degree), I can quickly forgive as “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot,” is undoubtedly funny.

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