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Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
Genre War
 
Review:

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is based on the memoirs of Kim Baker from her biographical novel, Taliban Shuffle, about a cable news producer who decided to take on a daring new job as a war correspondent in Kabul, Afghanistan in 2002. We journey with the forty-something American woman through the hedonistic haze and turbulent years as she becomes accustomed to a new way of life in an out-of-control war zone.

As a war comedy drama, it's not surprising to find Tina Fey at the helm as the fish-out-of-water journalist. While the 30 Rock screenwriter and star has been typically associated with comedy, this adaptation demonstrates her dramatic range. Instead of being a laugh-a-minute comedy, Fey finds herself trawling through a film that tries to do everything: in search of poignant war moments, satirical comedy and stirring drama.

While the tone is aiming for something like Good Morning Vietnam with Robin Williams, it comes off like a blend of Zero Dark Thirty and Rock the Kasbah. The dead serious character study and memoir snippets with occasional military operations make it seem modelled on Zero Dark Thirty. While the attempts at a satirical edge with colourful characters and mild hedonism against the backdrop of a strict social order and catchy music recall Bill Murray in Rock the Kasbah.

Sadly, it doesn't quite match Good Morning Vietnam in terms of its lead performance or tonal balancing act. While Tina Fey has talent and manages to deliver a reasonable performance, the role really required an actress with more dramatic heft. Her strong comedy background just makes the film seem somewhat underwhelming as she trades in laughter over nuance. Then, the highlights reel of stories and encounters is rather choppy as several years of memoirs are condensed with Baker as the central thread.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot has excellent production values and feels like it was shot on location with a steady stream of authentic Afghanistan and Kabul scenes anchoring the film in reality. The storytelling does get a bit confusing as we try to make sense of the real-life news at play, however the strength of the supporting cast is enough to distract us with some solid turns by Billy Bob Thornton, Alfred Molina, Margot Robbie and Martin Freeman as Scottish journalist Iain MacKelpie.

While you would imagine Tina Fey and Martin Freeman would make a terrific comedy duo, their relationship seems toned down and lacks the necessary chemistry to make it seem anything more than a dalliance. With a title like Whiskey Tango Foxtrot you would expect an edgier movie in the same head space as Four Lions, however, beside some light commentary on being a female war correspondent in a patriarchal society and some foul language, it's rather tame.

Overall, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot seems slightly miscast, a little too safe and a bit too familiar for its own good. While it never reaches the same heights of its influences, it makes for a fairly entertaining coming-of-age war comedy drama with quality ingredients and a few memorable moments.

The bottom line: Amusing


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