Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
Starring Tina Fey, Martin Freeman, Margot Robbie, Alfred Molina, Billy Bob Thornton, Christopher Abbott, Cherry Jones
The title doesn’t seem to make much sense until you look at its acronym. Rare that we find a film concerning war with a female in the title. Even rarer that we find a war centered film that is also part comedy. “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” is the first time Tina Fey (“This is Where I Leave You”, “Sisters”) has appeared in a legitimate, multidimensional role that’s more than an extended SNL character. The trailer might sell Fey fans and comedy followers, showing the comedian shooting an automatic weapon. While there are a few ironically satirical moments in the movie, it’s a pretty serious look at war embedded journalists. It’s based on the memoir of NPR correspondent Kim Baker who was described as a “Tina Fey type” by a New York Critic, generating interest from the actress.
Her dull work and meaningless social cycle prompted television copy editor Kim Baker (Fey) to take a job on camera in Kabul, Afghanistan in 2004. An assignment originally only intended for three months, changed Baker’s life gave her purpose. Her initial problems of chapped lips, insecurity and missing her boyfriend quickly fade the first time she films a bombing raid while being embedded with the Marines and General Hollanek (Thornton). The rush she gains from that near death experience awakens something inside. Kabul becomes her home with fellow journalists Tanya Vanderpoel (Robbie) and Iain MacKelpie (Freeman) as her support system. After years living abroad and the American public losing interest in seeing war on TV, Baker must fight to retain her post.
The script has some uneven issues, as it throws in jokes just to keep the comedy fans pacified, those are mostly overlooked due to Fey’s acting.
“Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” sheds light on a particular area of journalism not seen before in mainstream media. It certainly doesn’t carry the weight or emotional relevance of Juliette Binoche’s photojournalism film “1000 Times Goodnight”. It’s more a film of self-discovery, an “Eat, Pray, Love” type journey but without all the fun stuff. The greatest journey is witnessing the evolution of Fey as an actress. In her most dramatic performance yet, she and the directors manage to access what Bill Murray’s “Rock the Kasbah” or Sandra Bullock’s “Our Brand Is Crisis” never found. Minus the first time we see a timid Baker do a 180 out of her comfort zone into the line of fire, the remainder of the film delivers a believable portrayal of someone stumbling into their calling.
Fey isn’t the only one stepping into new territory. Surrounded by an all-star cast including an emotionally reserved and bearded performance from last year’s breakout star and Independent Spirit Award nominee Christopher Abbott (“James White”). Oscar winner Thornton actually gets the most laughs, while Margot Robbie (“Wolf of Wall Street, Focus”) continues to chase unexpected roles. Her character and the conversations with Baker allow this film to easily pass the Bechel test. Freeman (“The Hobbit”), Molina (“Love in Strange”) all use different accents or play nationalities other than their own as well as providing the film with a vast range of personalities. The script has some uneven issues, as it throws in jokes just to keep the comedy fans pacified, those are mostly overlooked due to Fey’s acting.
Fey’s most impressive performance yet.