Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

Review by Paul Preston
The Movie Guys

Tina Fey is back! Actually it feels like she never left as hot on the heels of last Christmas’ “Sisters” comes “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot”. It’s another Tina Fey vehicle, but certainly a different go-round for the comedy legend-in-the-making.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot“WTF” (see what they did there?) doesn’t pile on the gags and laugh lines like “Sisters” did and instead serves up more of a drama with comedy (and romance) in it as Fey plays a reporter who goes to Afghanistan war zones to shake up her comfort zone.

The film opens with just the kind of chaotic scene you’d come to expect from the war-torn middle east, then flashes back to see how Fey’s Kim Baker (author of the book the film is based on) got to this horrible place and time. Not much time is spent on Baker’s pre-war phase. Her life is supposedly dull and in need of a charge, but we don’t get that much. In fact, her boyfriend seems charming (eventually that changes). Joe Banks – now THAT guy had reason for adventure.

Whiskey Tango FoxtrotSo what truly drives Baker to the most awful place on earth isn’t a particularly strong reason, but off she goes. What follows is a series of scenes that don’t necessarily play out an overall theme or fire up an incisive wit to satirize the whole mess the way the grossly underappreciated “Our Brand is Crisis” did. Considering this film comes from Fey, “30 Rock” writer Robert Carlock and producer Lorne Michaels, it’s a little surprising that the film never goes into comedy sniper mode.

The film jaunts between all-too-simplistic scenes (Fey accidentally drops money into a Kabul street and disorder ensues, Alfred Molina’s sexist attorney general is played more cartoonish than other characters) and scenes of high drama or intensity (there’s tragedy when a reporter goes for a scoop, Baker gets lost in town and has a moment of terror, a school is bombed). “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” reminds us over and over again how terrible it is to be a woman in Afghanistan. Even women, brainwashed into the man-centric way of life over there, are admonishing Baker for not being covered up or for holding hands with a man. The effect of this gets across, even more so than the humor you’re led to expect from the trailer.

Whiskey Tango FoxtrotThe way to deal with such a godforsaken place, it seems, is to be hedonistic with drugs, sex and alcohol. But with no real takeaway at the end of one’s time there, and no real accomplishment (spoiler alert – the war doesn’t end and the reporters don’t change the world), Afghanistan just feels like one long distraction.

It’s a one hour, fifty-one minute reminder of why no one should ever go to the Middle East. But the finale involves Baker reuniting with a soldier who should’ve gone mad in such a violent, unruly nation. However, the demeanor, humility and respect on display in this soldier reminds you that if anyone absolutely has to be over there, for our sakes, I’m glad it’s him, representing us well.

* – Sure, “Our Brand is Crisis” took place in Bolivia, but the point is, you’re in no hurry to go there either, right?
In the end, I will never ever go to the Middle East, and I’m kinda tired of going to this miserable part of the world in movies, too. We’ve recently sent Tina Fey, Bill Murray and Sandra Bullock there* – three of our most likeable people – in an attempt to make it pleasing. Before Will Smith, Steve Carell and John Goodman have to go there, maybe Hollywood should make like our troops should and pull out of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Directed by: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa
Release Date: March 4, 2016
Run Time: 112 Minutes
Country: USA
Rated: R
Distributor: Paramount Pictures

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