Whiskey Tango Foxtrot HD Digital Ultraviolet UV Code
Not a comedy but a worthy, well made film of an important subject. Loads of bad language.
By Andy McKinney on March 12, 2016
Whisky Tango Foxtrot
Do not be fooled by the movie billing of "Whisky Tango Foxtrot" as a comedy, nor by the star, famous comedian Tina Fey nor by the producer Saturday Night Live's Lorne Michaels. Some funny stuff happens, funny more often in the sense of the absurd or in the sense of tragic-comedy but if you wanted something more along the the lines of "Bride's Maids", which would seem a natural expectation from this band of movie makers, look elsewhere. The not so funny film stands on its own as a many layered look into the contemporary world scene and has considerable value in that way.
An American woman reporter goes to Afghanistan with no notion about the history, the culture, language or much notion about the place at all, a natural enough situation for any American at that time-or indeed at any time. One of the two script writers, Kim Barker, also wrote the original book, "The Taliban Shuffle" that the film loosely follows. To get the most nourishment from the film we need to look around the edges of the story. Kim (Tina Fey) undergoes her transformation from naif to driven, hardened war correspondent over the several years of her stay and that transformation holds a lot of interest for us. Thankfully, she exits the bizarre-o world of the battle front before she slides entirely into the darkness of cynical ambition, a dark place where bloody body parts frame the reporter's fame.
A number of scenes illuminate tiny parts of Afghan culture and show the rough places where East meets West. Kim lavishly over tips a crying beggar boy, a child selling eggs whose stock has become broken and worthless only to find that Egg Boy always has broken eggs, not to sell but to invoke the pathos of the passing Westerners. The reporters retreat from the horrors around them and the upside down culture they try to navigate by over medicating with booze, sex and recreational drugs, which gives the movie viewer some light moments, but at bottom the surcease for the reporters is both meaningless and temporary. Always underlying the lives of the reporters is the chance of random death. The people of Afghanistan have a dangerous volatility and a mob can form quickly to vent homicidal anger at something as beguine to us as a woman simply being alone. Perhaps the most terrifying scene showed only Kim dropped by a taxi in the wrong spot leaving her alone in the night of Kabul, prey to any kind of violence suggested only by the sounds of the night. In her book, Kim Barker mentioned that Afghanistan is "...a place where young men from the provinces didn't know how to lace their boots..." never having had boots. That is an experience about as far from what Americans know as we can possibly imagine.
But all these nice bits of film making do not jell into more than a medium size movie watching experience. Maybe it isn't a good idea to have comics make a serious social exploration.
Tina Fey does quite well and has two remarkable looks at her co-star and romantic interest, Martin Freeman (famous as Bilbo Baggans). Australian beauty Margot Robbie plays the older hand reporter who befriends the new comer Kim. Robbie appeared in the 2013 "About Time" and 2015's "Focus" with Will Smith. Billy Bob Thorton plays a Marine officer. Thorton now has a screen presence that has few equals. Alferd Molina, an actor with 163 film and TV credits, plays the reporter's native fixer, translator and general factotum.
We have an unusual tag team in the director's chair. Glen Ficarra and John Requa have worked as a team before, in fact always, on "Crazy, Stupid, Love", the fore mentioned "Focus" and the less famous "I Love You, Phillip Morris". TV joke writer Robert Carlock teamed with book writer Kim Barker to pen the screenplay.
This decidedly "R" rated but ill called 'comedy' musters an average three saw blades in-spite of the well done individual parts. It runs for one hour and 52 minutes. Tina Fey, Lorne Michaels and the other producers spent $35 million to make the movie but has returned on $10 million so far in a field dominated by "Zootopia".
Funny woman Tina Fey must have a heart of gold. She has established a charity to aid military veterans who want to go to journalism school. She didn't have to do that, at all. Good for her.