‘Whiskey Tango Foxtrot’ mixes sensitive topics, comedy
There are some things that don’t go well together, like oil and water or ketchup and a Chicago hotdog. Some may think the same for the dramedy genre and the sensitive crises in the Middle East, but “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” proves the opposite.
Out in theatres today, “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” is directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa and stars Tina Fey as real-life reporter Kim Barker. On a whim, Kim decides to take a job capturing wartime footage of Afghanistan and Pakistan for her TV news station back home in New York City, and in the process is torn between her old and new selves.
The film is based on Barker’s book, The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan. There are differences between the book and film, notably her name change from Barker to Baker and her job role from the South Asia bureau chief for The Chicago Tribune to a TV reporter. But the fun-spirited, comedic and determined nature of Barker is strongly performed by Tina Fey, who seemed to wear the role like a well-fit glove.
Also starring Margot Robbie, Martin Freeman, Alfred Molina, Christopher Abbott and Billy Bob Thornton, “Whiskey Foxtrot Tango” explores several themes that are many times lost or forgotten in the other genres that have depicted the Middle East.
The comedic spine of the film brings insight to the friction between genders, the Westerners and natives, and those sitting high in power over the powerless. It’s a shuffle between the opposites, neighbors and enemies, but a dance is created from the learned experiences.
The genre also allows for attention to Kim’s transformation from static, at-desk news writer to a nonstop reporting engine. It’s a transition that puts her abilities as a career woman to the forefront of a setting that normally wouldn’t recognize it.
But if there’s only one reason to see the film, it’s for the chaotic party scenes.
Barker admitted to there being parties in the “Fun House” (where reporters and fellow news staff were housed during their time abroad), “but I don’t know if they were as crazy as those parties,” she said in a Q&A session with the audience after a screening of the film.
“And there were brothels where we would go to sing karaoke,” she added.
Another wild scene showed Kim shooting a machine gun in a deserted open land with the future attorney general of Afghanistan, which also happened.
“But I’m from Montana and I know how to shoot a gun, and you don’t waste ammunition like that,” said Barker of the over-dramatized scene. “You’re careful with ammunition.”
It’s the mix of the chaotic and the sensitive that had Barker’s brother classify the film as “Bridesmaids” meets “The Hurt Locker.”
It’s a fun movie with humor and action — a decent dramedy that’s not brilliant but still worth the watch. The largest complaint is the lack of any appearances by Amy Poehler.