Whiskey Tango Foxtrot looked funny from the trailers, but I wasn’t a fan of Tina Fey. So I let it pass by. I continued to hear more good things about it, and I gained more interest as Margot Robbie was becoming a bigger star. Recently I’ve been binge watching Fey’s 30 Rock, so I figured now was as good a time as any to check it out.
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is based on the real-life account of a war reporter in Afghanistan. Tina Fey plays the reporter, Kim. Kim has become bored with her life and job. She’s a news writer, but she only gets to write local fluff stories. Moving to Afghanistan and covering the war promises to make her life more exciting and advance her career beyond what she could obtain in America.
Once in Afghanistan, being one of the few female reporters there boosts her status even further, but it also leads to army commander Hollanek (Billy Bob Thornton) cautioning her to not mess with any of his marines. Kim doesn’t heed caution and becomes addicted to the thrill of chasing the best stories and footage.
Rounding out the cast is Martin Freeman as a freelance photo journalist, Iain. The cast is good but somewhat under-used. Thornton is great, but he has very few scenes. Robbie and Freeman have more screen time, but their characters don’t develop much beyond the plot devises they serve. This only really leaves Fey’s performance. She does well with the role, but her character is plain and predictable.
I have a hard time placing this film in any genre. The marketing and reviews on the DVD make it appear to be a war comedy, but it plays out more like a war biopic with a sprinkling of chuckles. I found this disappointing considering the cast and what it was marketed as. I found it had a few mild laughs and made me crack a smile at other parts, but it didn’t offer up any of the sidesplitting humour it promised. It was a very subdued, surreal flavour of film.
Storywise it offered very little thrills or character development, and it only gives a small bit of insight into the psyche of war time reporting or thrill seeking. The biggest waste was the amount of time it spent on partying which could have been inserted into any generic stoner comedy.
The worst thing this film did wrong was the flash forward opening. We get treated to a glimpse of the newsroom as bombs go off, and everything is thrown into chaos. We then go back to three years before when Kim hasn’t decided to move yet, and you just know they needed that scene in the opening because the next half hour is going to bore you to tears. When they finally catch up to the scene, there’s no reveal or deepened insight. It was literally chosen at random to keep you from walking out.
My Favourites from the film: Kim’s interactions with the soldiers and her fixer, played by Christopher Abbott. Tina Fey and Billy Bob Thornton have good chemistry, and the film would have been better if their story together was more focused on. Morgot Robbie gives a good performance. The photography is well executed.
My Less enjoyed parts: I had no interest in Kim and Iain’s romance. This was in part because it was forced and also because Iain was very uninteresting as a character. The film is tonally inconsistent as it tries to be a comedy and a biopic. It ends up being a bland biopic because it’s not very funny and not very dramatic therefore not much of anything. It juggles so many story ideas and important insights that it never really explores any of them.
My Recommendation: I’d say skip it. There are better films out there. I’d say check out David O. Russell’s Three Kings for a more enjoyable war comedy. If you like that, David O. Russell has other biopic type comedies: American Hustle and Joy. Another recent biopic style comedy about a big news story is The Big Short. Give those a try.