REVIEW: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot has an identity crisis problem to deal with

Is it a comedy? Is it a drama? Trailers say one thing, movie says another.

It’s a little questionable when someone decides to just up and move to one of the most dangerous places in the world and work as a reporter. Or maybe not. As a journalist, it’s something I’ve seen people do, especially if they are bored with their current media job, and want a change of pace. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot wants to explore that, and kind of does.

Based on the memoir The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Tina Fey plays a version of the book’s author, Kim Barker. Barker is a journalist who decides (after riding a bike at the gym) to take up her boss’s depressing offer to go cover stories in Afghanistan. She develops friendships with other journalists in Afghanistan, like Tanya Vanderpoel (Margot Robbie) and Scottish journo Iain MacKelpie (Martin Freeman).

I felt like the movie explored a lot of themes most people would find relatable in their every day lives: making choices, dealing with challenges, dealing with uncertainty, competition, and working on developing one’s own backbone. Unfortunately, it played a lot of safe cards, because these were all things I’d seen before. Everyone deals with their stuff in their own way, and this is just one version of someone trying to wade through the crap.

There were some parts where I thought, “okay, this is sad,” or, “okay, this really sucks.” Reflection on the human condition is always good, so at least this movie has that going for it.

Tina Fey is actually not bad in this movie. While her take on the Barker character is one with a solid sense of humour, she’s not getting on the stage and making Mean Girls ‘drug pusher’ jokes. Her character is a hard worker, reflective, and uses humour to defuse situations. Where Fey REALLY shines is when she’s struggling to cope with bullshit. She goes through a lot in this movie, and you really feel for her. The pang of not having filed a story in months. Trying to figure out if you’re still relevant – hell, if your station gives a damn about you. I wish the trailers would have focused more on that – and I’ll touch on that shortly. In the case of other characters, I thought the casting of Alfred Molina as Ali Massoud Sadiq, an Afghani national en route to a position of power, was awkward and uncomfortable. He had his funny moments – but those were his only moments. Margot Robbie is decent as ambitious foreign correspondent Vanderpoel; nothing to get SUPER excited over, though.

Where I think this movie is going to have some problems is in its advertising. Before I went into the Wednesday screening, I was expecting something very Borat-ish: someone trying to be a journalist in Afghanistan, and constantly getting it wrong. Yes, Fey is a comedic genius, but I’d wish they’d covered more of her more serious, dramatic moments in the spots. Also…the name suggests some kind of Sisters escapade. I wish they would have come up with something else. Somewhat disappointing; mostly confusing.

I’m happy I saw this ahead of time, and it’s an okay movie if you’re looking for something to kill time with over the weekend. I wouldn’t RUSH out to go see the darn thing, but it’s not the worst movie for 2016. Journalists will probably appreciate this one more so than others.

It’s a ‘just barely there’ mark, but I’m going to give this movie three and a half Tina Feys out of five. Take that as you see fit.

Here’s the trailer for Whiskey Tango Foxtrot:

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