Based on journalist Kim Barker’s memoir, “The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” this dramedy chronicles her journey from cubicle worker to war reporter.
If you think Tina Fey is only about being funny, “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” will make you see her in a different light. She’s naturally funny, of course, but she can also play drama. I think this movie is a game-changer for her in terms of her comedic brand.
In “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot,” Fey stars as Kim Baker, a bored TV news writer who jumps at the chance to become a war reporter in Afghanistan in the mid-2000s. Yes, her name in the movie is Kim BAKER, even though the real-life person is named Kim BARKER. I understand why Fey changed the name, because much of the film is fictional. Still, it bugs me.
The story follows Kim’s journey from a safe newsroom cubicle to dangerous war-torn Afghanistan and Pakistan. Baker is a fish out of water at first, but soon finds her place with other war reporters, including gorgeous Tanya Vanderpoel (Margo Robbie) and self-centered Iain MacKelpie (Martin Freeman).
Baker navigates her way in this new world, from military “embeds” (where she goes into the field with the soldiers) to butting heads with hard-core General Hollanek (Billy Bob Thornton). Along the way, she encounters violence, poverty and terror. She and the other reporters de-stress by drinking, doing drugs and engaging in casual sex.
As a writer, movies about other writers are always fascinating to me. I love that “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” shows us all sides of life as a war reporter. It’s not just about breaking scoops and feeling the adrenaline rush. It’s also about the chaotic life of soldiers and reporters during very dangerous situations. Being a woman in a male-dominated world adds an extra challenge for Baker. Not just the U.S. military, but also being in a country where women are seen as second-class citizens and clothed from head to toe.
But it’s not all drama. I would think that having a sense of humor in a war zone would be a necessity, and “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” excels at showing both the dark and lighter sides. And Tina Fey is terrific.
PARENT OVERVIEW: The R-rating for “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” is spot-on. The movie takes an unflinching look at life in a war zone, where bombings, gunfire, political instability and violence is a way of life. War reporters cope with life by drinking, doing drugs and engaging in casual sex. Language includes lots of f-bombs and more.
Reel Rating: 5 out of 5 Reels
MPAA Rating: R for pervasive language, some sexual content, drug use and violent war images
Released in Theaters: March 4, 2016
Best for Ages: 17+
Genre: Drama, Comedy, War
Runtime: 111 minutes
Directed by: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa
Cast: Tina Fey, Margot Robbie, Billy Bob Thornton, Martin Freeman
JANE’S REEL RATING SYSTEM:
One Reel – Even the Force can’t save it.
Two Reels – Coulda been a contender.
Three Reels – Something to talk about.
Four Reels – You want the truth? Great flick!
Five Reels – Wow! The stuff dreams are made of.
Images in this review used courtesy of the studio and distributor.