One of my biggest pet peeves is when a good movie is sold and/or publicized as something it is not. You can’t help but be a little disappointed when you discover that the movie is nothing like what you were promised. While this type of bait and switch might help to bring in audiences, it often takes a second viewing to truly appreciate the movie for what it actually is. Tina Fey’s new movie, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, falls into this exact predicament.
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot has been advertised as a laugh out loud comedy about a blundering woman, navigating through the early stages of the Afghanistan war, trying to make it as a war correspondent. However, the film is really an interesting look at the high you experience when you are successful at your job. That sense of satisfaction that comes despite the fact that the job makes you swear, raises the potential of you getting shot at, and causes you to live in an unfamiliar country.
Oh, and sometimes those experiences can be really funny.
Kim Baker (Fey) is a news writer who is tasked with being a correspondent in Afghanistan in 2003. The role consists of her working with a body guard, Nic (Stephen Peacocke), a local interpreter, Fahim Ahmadzai (Christopher Abbott), and a group of marines under Gen. Hollanek’s (Billy Bob Thorton) command. At first Baker cannot help but whine to her boyfriend (Josh Charles) about the various strange things she’s experiencing in the Kabul bubble. However, once she starts to get a taste of success in her work (i.e. filming interesting things blowing up or being shot at) Baker cannot help but continue to crave the high that comes with it.
When not seeking out stories, Baker makes a point to party it up with friend and fellow journalist Tanya Vanderpoel (Margot Robbie) as much as possible. Though Baker and Vanderpoel are two of an extremely small pool of female journalists in Kabul, the film does not dwell on this too much. The thing I like the best about Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is that it isn’t about a woman flailing in a “man’s world.” It’s about the difficulties that come with our societal obsession of getting the next big score (e.g. drugs, deals, connections, awards, etc.). The kinds of sacrifices we are willing to make just to achieve or be a part of that next big win.
Directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa are able to deliver these themes in an amusing way. There are several funny moments that simply involve things being blown up. It also helps that they have Tina Fey’s particular brand of self-deprecating humor to play off of. For example, Baker becomes a “10” in Kabul, and is anywhere from a “4-6” in the real world…depending on who is insulting her. However, though there is plenty of comedy to go around, this movie isn’t 30 Rock, Baby Mama, nor is it Sisters. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is something a little bigger, better, and deeper than all of those. It is a film that deserves to be seen despite how it has been marketed.