I still have no idea what the title of Tina Fey’s new smart and absurdly funny film, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot actually means ( I mean WTF?) but coming from directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa who gave us, among others, Crazy Stupid Love, I guess it makes sense. As I say in my video review (click the link above to watch) there actually is a lot of “crazy stupid love” in this one too, a real triumph for lovers of dark, satirical comedy with an edge and something to say.
Based on Kim Barker’s autobiographical tale of her time as a Chicago Tribune reporter loose in the war zone , “The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days In Afghanistan and Pakistan”, the movie version clearly needed a different name. That isn’t the only change in this mostly true story. Kim Barker herself is now Kim Baker as portrayed by Tina Fey in a welcome and different departure from recent film roles like Sisters. In fact, I don’t recall quite seeing her in anything with the subservient nature of WTF. In the film she also is not a print journalist, but rather a TV reporter looking for some adventurous change in her life, so she signs up for what she thinks will be a brief stint as a foreign correspondent in Afghanistan. Yes, she has a boyfriend (Josh Charles) but expects to be back. She just wants to do something a little more challenging while she is still single.
Upon arriving in Kabul she finds she is definitely a fish out of water and quickly discovers the area is not only a hotbed of war and violence, but also a hotbed of sex – and that is what is going on with everyone from soldiers to her colleagues to sleazy local officials. She resists going that far herself although Tanya, the sultry TV reporter played by Margot Robbie tries to give her the lay of the land so to speak. She also adjusts with help from her translator (Christopher Abbott) and other co-workers she is now co-habitating with including Nic, a ripped security guy she eyes from afar, and Iain (Martin Freeman), a quirky Scottish photographer she eventually hooks up with. That happens shortly after a Skype call in which she catches her boyfriend cheating on her. That moment gives her license to go wild and from there the film chronicles her various encounters and incidents in this new strange place.
The overall casting is terrific and also includes Billy Bob Thornton as a military commander who warns her to keep it professional when she is embedded with his soldiers, as well as Alfred Molina who is hilarious as a local official who keeps making passes at her. Best of all though is Freeman (The Hobbit, Sherlock) ho has great chemistry with Fey and lends a nice dose of reality to this dark war comedy, reminiscent in a good way of films like M*A*S*H and thankfully not Bill Murray’s somewhat similar recent box office bust also set in Kabul called Rock The Kasbah. This one gets it right and for that we have Fey’s longtime partner on 30 Rock, Robert Carlock’s fine adaptation to thank, as well as Fey herself who shines in a terrific turn in a movie about reporters on the front lines that somehow got embedded in my soul by the time it ended. It is not easy to take serious situations and make them comedic without losing complete control. Ficarra and Requa, Fey and Carlock along with a first rate cast manage it nicely. Producers are Lorne Michaels and Ian Bryce. Paramount releases it March 4.
Do you plan to see Whiskey Tango Foxtrot? Let us know what you think.