The Hippo


Apr 25, 2019








Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
Film Reviews by Amy Diaz

By Amy Diaz

 A desk worker decides to blow up her life and heads to Afghanistan in Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, a satisfying dramady starring Tina Fey.

When, in 2003, as the Iraq war starts, her TV network asks for volunteers to cover the now second-tier war in Afghanistan, cubicle-bound producer Kim Baker (Tina Fey) decides to leave her Tupperware of tuna salad and her boyfriend (Josh Charles) behind and go. In Kabul, she meets reporter Tanya (Margot Robbie), who introduces her to life in the Kabubble, as they call it. She goes to the hidden nightclubs and embassy parties and learns about the local con artists. As one of few western women in the country, Kim is told she’s now “Kabul cute” — a message reinforced by General Hollanek (Billy Bob Thornton), who tells her to please not sleep with any of his Marines.
At first Kim seems to regret her decision, but during her first experience under fire, she grabs a camera and starts shooting. We can see from her proud smile that she’s got the bug.
Soon she’s spending her nights drinking and her days navigating the strangeness of Afghanistan and the war with the same world-weariness as the veteran reporters. But as the war slips even lower in public interest, Kim feels pushed to chase even more dangerous leads to get the stories that will keep her from being sent back to her old life.
In addition to Tanya, Kim finds herself cultivating a variety of strange relationships. There’s Iain (Martin Freeman), the Scottish photographer and charming jerk Tanya warns Kim to stay away from. There’s Nic (Stephen Peacocke), Kim’s strapping New Zealander security guard. There’s Fahim (Christopher Abbott), the Afghan fixer and translator who grows to respect Kim but also worries about her need for increased risk. There’s the general who understands his and Kim’s mutual need for each other to keep the war they’re manning in the news. And then there’s Ali Massoud Sadiq (Alfred Molina), Afghanistan’s new attorney general who is very keen on getting Kim to be his special friend and even shows her the bed he’s had put into his office.
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot doesn’t have anything particularly new to say about Afghanistan but, thankfully, it also doesn’t try to have some overall mission statement about The War. And, unlike the Rock the Kasbah type movie, this movie doesn’t try to make any unearned statements or judgement about the country or its people. Because its story is really about the journalists in Kabul, it’s able to keep its focus on these people and the ways they crassly use the war (and the Afghans) to fix their lives and advance their careers. 
Thankfully, this framework allows the movie to avoid making sweeping statements about the war or the people of Afghanistan.
And because the movie can focus on the specific group of journalists and their orbit, so can we. I like the way these characters are drawn. They are tart and acerbic but not devoid of humanity. It is the perfect blend of absurdity and seriousness that fits Fey like a custom-made glove. She shines as Kim in a way she hasn’t in some other recent parts. She allows Kim to change and grow but it’s always in a way that is believable for her character. And I really like how the movie handles her experiences in the hook-up culture of western journalists in Kabul. The relationship she falls into is sweet and believable and refreshingly different in how it plays out. B
Rated R for pervasive language, some sexual content, drug use and violent war images. Directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa with a screenplay by Robert Carlock (based on a memoir by Kim Barker), Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is an hour and 52 minutes long and distributed by Paramount Pictures.  

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