In ‘Whiskey Tango Foxtrot’, comedy queen Tina Fey gives the best dramatic performance of her career to date. She holds the center among the zany and shocking chaos in this excellent film, and I was enthralled.
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, based on the book The Taliban Shuffle by Kim Barker, is not how the trailer makes it look. I went in expecting a knee-slapping comedy set in Afghanistan, and came out feeling very much moved by what is actually a drama-slash-action film with comedic interjections. (I will say that what the trailer and movie have in common is that everything is bananas.) Whether you go for the explosions, the partying or the badassery that is Tina Fey stomping around a war zone, see it.
Whatever you want to call it — WTF for brevity, or my personal favorite joke name, Zero Dark 30 Rock — it’s a captivating film. Kim Baker, a journalist who’s fed up with writing boring stories behind a desk, seizes an opportunity and moves across the world to become a war correspondent in Afghanistan. “Welcome to the Fun House,” as one character tells her, speaks to the fraternity party lifestyle that the Westerners lead. As Kim embarks on marine embeds and gets nose-to-nose with Taliban insurgents, all the while juggling the aforementioned partying, a very forward Afghan official, a wedding (not hers) and a Scottish boyfriend, she finds what she couldn’t back in humdrum New York City — nonstop adrenaline. After a few obligatory Hollywood-style mishaps, Kim proves that she can handle herself.
Kabul is hazy and disjointed — there are multiple shots of Kim waking up with a hangover after a wild night — and culture shock abounds. It’s heartwarming to watch Kim wise up and fall in love with the place and its people, while asserting herself as a serious journalist and finding time to have great sex. It’s true to Tina Fey’s track record in the sense that her character eventually “has it all”, but this time, the stakes are higher as Kim risks her life time and again for a hit story, and later to rescue her boyfriend. WTF may warrant multiple viewings to catch up on all of the clever dialogue that’s missed due to the massive amounts of things that go boom, or you could just pick up the source material, which is awesome in its own right.
While 70% of the events and characters are modified from the book, it delivers by maintaining the integrity of what real-life Kim experienced while overseas. Tina brings her impeccable comic timing and sarcasm to the nonstop insanity that is the “Kabubble”, sure, but she also performs with honest emotion in such a way that I felt it was her most worthwhile dramatic role in a movie. With Margot Robbie, Martin Freeman, Billy Bob Thornton and Christopher Abbott on her side, Tina assembles a Task Force X to rival that, you know, other movie starring Margot Robbie coming out this year.
In the end, people get hurt in multiple senses of the term, as they tend to do, but as one young but war-weathered marine puts it: “You embrace the suck; you move the f*ck forward.” Wise words.
HollywoodLifers, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is out March 4. Will you go see it?