When someone wants to switch up their routine, they might take a new route to work or change their hair. They don’t generally take an assignment in the Middle East on a whim. In Tina Fey’s latest pet project, journalist Kim Baker does just that without any prior experience with or knowledge of the culture. Quickly finding herself overwhelmed as a war correspondent, she befriends fellow journalists Tanya and Iain and immerses herself in the experience.
This movie brought a lot of charisma to the table. Based on Kim Barker’s memoir “The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” producer and lead actress Fey gives the role due humor and seriousness. She gives a solid performance against the backdrop of the violent, chaotic war setting, and made a respectable effort in the film’s direction to keep it as unoffensive to the culture as possible.
The story follows her as she learns from Tanya (Margot Robbie) and Iain (Martin Freeman), enjoying the high-adrenaline lifestyle that the job brings as well as learning about the country and the war from an Afghani perspective. Between the partying and the comedy comes some ugly realities, such as the violence and inhumanity of war and how morally wrong it is to exploit that for the high ratings.
What the film lacked was focus. After Baker initially arrives in Afghanistan, the story becomes choppy. As with Fey’s typical style, her films are funny and smart, but lack fluidity scene-to-scene, often flipping between dialogue-heavy drama and absurdist physical comedy. Not every joke hits home either. The satire could have been better fleshed out and poignant. When given the choice, the film chose light-hearted, sillier jokes instead of opting for cleverer, less obvious punchlines.
This film was fun, but too much so for the setting and subject matter. Our main cast spent the vast majority of the story partying on par with characters from “The Hangover,” so when those more dramatic scenes began to unfold in the second half of the film, it came off clunky and disjointed. The plot is based off of true events, but it’s obvious what was genuine and what was reworked or added in for the big screen.
My favorite aspect of this movie was the characters. Amidst a choppy plot with questionable direction, Fey, Robbie, and Freeman brought the charm and humanity to a flailing story. I particularly enjoyed the friendship between Fey’s and Robbie’s characters, Kim and Tanya. These were two intelligent, likable women in a strange situation, and their easy banter and lively dynamic kept me invested when the plot often failed.
There wasn’t any shortage of laughter in “Whisky Tango Foxtrot,” nor did it lack action or intrigue. It had a strong main cast and characters worth getting to know. However, it was thematically unclear, paced awkwardly and not as relevant as it wanted to be. This is film is a good time and worth checking out with your friends, but you’re better off renting it.