Film review: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

Based on the memoir of wartime correspondent Kim Barker, and humorously named after military speak for WTF, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is an easy-to-watch dramedy starring Tina Fey.

May 19, 2016, updated May 19, 2016

Disillusioned with her work as a cable news desk jockey covering uninteresting local stories, Baker (the name the character is given in the film) is provided with an opportunity to go on assignment as a war correspondent following America’s counter-insurgency mission in Afghanistan.

Her arrival brings a major culture shock. But Baker finds the rowdy community atmosphere of the press accommodation (aptly dubbed the Kabubble, after the Afghan capital of Kabul) endearing, and develops relationships with female correspondent Tanya (Margot Robbie) and lewd Scottish photographer Iain (Martin Freeman).

Despite the danger and much to the disappointment of her long-distance boyfriend, her short-term assignment becomes a career.

Directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, who co-wrote the comedy Bad Santa and co-directed Crazy Stupid Love, have proven they are good at two things: exploring relationships and making relationships funny.

On their ability to handle serious situations and dramatic sequences, however, the jury is still out. Any real war reportage that Baker does during the film moves past so fast it feels like sequences of a montage.

The scrip by screenwriter Robert Carlock is quite predictable, relying heavily on strong performances and star cameos, particularly from Hollywood veterans Billy Bob Thornton and Alfred Molina.

Baker’s relationships with her friends and her Afghan driver Fahim (played by American actor Christopher Abbott) are interesting and allowed to blossom.

She falls in love with the foreign culture, tackling her new job with resilience and an open mind, but the character suffers from the lack of a real crescendo of conflict and resolution.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot seems unsure if it’s a comedy or a dramedy, and when it should be funny or solemn. It also lacks any political commentary; if anything, is a little safe.

A perfect movie for a date night but not for people expecting a Zero Dark Thirty-like war-time commentary film.

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