Without Tina Fey in the lead and Lorne Michaels producing, WHISKEY TANGO FOXTROT might’ve turned into a drama with a hint of comedy, and significantly less enjoyable. That would’ve been unfortunate, because the story of Kim Baker going to Afghanistan deserved to be told. Not in like a Schindler’s List kind of way, or Milk, or Selma, but it’s a look into how the media operates in a foreign war zone for a conflict our nation doesn’t always seem particularly interested that it’s involved in at the time.
So, Kim Baker (Tina Fey) gets bored of her desk job at a media company and when an opportunity arises to go to Afghanistan to help cover the war for a few months, she takes it up on a whim. The three-month tour ens up lasting far longer as she constantly learns more about herself in the “Kabubble”.
The keys to the film are the relationships she forms along the way.
She starts the film with a boyfriend (Josh Charles) back in New York, though he doesn’t seem to care that she’s flying halfway around the world for three months. The trailers all but tell you that their relationship doesn’t last, so I don’t feel like that’s so much of a spoiler. It’s not as if Charles has more than three scenes in the film, so any spoilers I’ve provided ruins about 3% of the movie.
As Baker gains comfort in her situation, she learns to be comfortable in her own skin through interactions with one of the only other female correspondents in Afghanistan, the beautiful Tanya Vanderpoel (Margot Robbie). She helps Baker transition from a staff writer into an on-screen personality in a world completely different than what she knew back in New York.
Against Vanderpoel’s recommendations, Baker gets closer to a Scottish correspondent (Martin Freeman), and despite that being a fun part of the movie, the most interesting relationship she forms is the one with her bodyguard, Fahim Ahmadzai (Christopher Abbott). Through this sibling-style bond they form, we get to know each of them better, and their respective cultures. She also forms a friendship with the Attorney General of Afghanistan (Alfred Molina), which helps show her professional growth.
There were very few funny scenes in the film, but there were plenty of laughter-drawing moments throughout, which was a good approach because it felt more natural. And that’s part of the film’s overall problem, in that it has no clear aim aside from character development. We get to learn a lot about each of about six characters along their journey, but what they’re telling us isn’t clear. The film doesn’t have a direction. Does it want to inform us about what’s going on in Afghanistan in the early 2000’s? Not really. We do learn a bit about the cultural differences, but that’s not much of a backbone on which to drive a film. It’s not very heavy in the drama, though we do see dismemberment in one scene, and I think someone cries once or twice due to emotions (not physical pain). There’s some comedy, but I don’t recall any scene directly established with the point of making viewers laugh. It’s a decent movie, but classifying it is hard, probably because it doesn’t seem to have much of a goal in mind other than showing us an interesting slice of life in a story that actually happened.
Don’t go into the film expecting a strong comedy, nor any noteworthy performances. But it is enjoyable, and it’s an interesting look at the war in Afghanistan.
My rating: 75 out of 100