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Film Review: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (2016)
October 14, 2016
Loosely based on Kim Barker’s memoir, The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot stars Tina Fey as a dissatisfied American news copywriter whose impulsive decision to become a foreign correspondent in Afghanistan opens her eyes to the extreme lifestyle of war journalism. As one of the few women working in the field, Barker finds her unique place among other international journalists and in the highly patriarchal Afghan society in addition to thriving in her risk-filled workplace. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot also stars Margot Robbie as an English journalist, Martin Freeman as a Scottish photographer, Christopher Abbott as an Afghan fixer, Billy Bob Thornton as a Marine commander, and Alfred Molina as the Afghan Attorney General.
With Fey and her frequent collaborator Robert Carlock’s typical wit and humour, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is a perfectly entertaining blend of self-deprecating comedy and occasional grounded realness. The woman-in-a-man’s-world situation is especially ripe for Fey’s wry take on it but the movie also knows when to leave some breathing space for serious matters about politics, social upheaval, warfare, and the economic realities of journalism. The war-based subject matter is engaged on a mostly personal level for Barker, who digs for stories in Afghanistan because it is her job and she loves it, but her interaction with other people, from soldiers to politicians to regular citizens, offers glimpses of a bigger picture.
Uproarious but also emotional, Fey displays her surprisingly wide-ranging acting chops throughout the entire film. The rest of the eclectic and charming cast are amazing as well. Robbie is great fun as a gorgeous colleague who teaches Fey’s character the rules of the “Kabubble,” which is the nickname for their insular society of war correspondents in Kabul, members of which know to work hard and party harder. Freeman is also excellent, transforming effortlessly from his usual, adorable hedgehog-like persona to an absolute stone-cold fox. Abbott is almost unrecognizable as a quiet and competent friend and wise guide to Afghan customs who is challenged by and challenges Barker’s recklessness. All in all, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is saved from being an Afghanistan-set Eat, Pray, Love by its sharp comedy and cast.