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Whiskey tango foxtrot

Tina Fey stars in the movie adaptation of a book entitled “The Taliban Shuffle”, the memoirs of a news correspondent for the Afghanistan War.

Summary

The movie opens with Kim Baker (Tina Fey) in the middle of a bunch of journalists partying in Afghanistan while bombs go off in the distance. As Kim rushes outside in the midst of the chaos, she tries to call the story back in to her station. Most of the movie is a flashback to how Kim got to this point. She started working in a cubicle in NYC. Her station manager offered the single and childless employees the opportunity to become war correspondents in Kabul. Wanting to break the rut she found herself in, Kim decided to take the job. She gets to Afghanistan where she gets a crash course on what it’s like to be a war correspondent. The work is dangerous, but exciting and most of the journalists there party hard in between risking their safety to follow up stories that their networks will deem interesting enough to put on the air.

Aside from her local guide Fahim (Christopher Abbott) and her fake Aussie security guard Nic (Stephen Peacocke) her most significant friend/colleague is an established war correspondent, Tanya Vanderpoel (Margot Robbie). While Nic and Fahim show her the professional ropes, Tanya introduces her to a new social life and helps Kim come out of her shell. Tanya also introduces Kim to Iain MacKelpie (Martin Freeman), who would later become her boyfriend. Kim is also introduced to General Hollanek (Billy Bob Thornton), a marine who’s responsible for the unit that Kim travels with to get her stories. Kim gets her first big break when the unit is ambushed on a trip that they were only taking because she was there. During the firefight, Kim leaves the safety of her vehicle and gets next to the soldiers with her camera and records the entire encounter. The stunt is stupid, but earns her the respect of the marines as well as a lot of air time back in the states. It also later teaches Kim a lesson when she discovers that the soldiers would’ve never been put in danger if she hadn’t made a request to try to get a story.

As time passes, Kim gets more comfortable in Khabul (what the journalists call the “Khabubble”). Fahim warns her that she’s becoming addicted to the thrill of being a war journalist after a reckless mistake lands her and her team in the middle of an angry mob. Kim brushes it off and continues to push forward, but she becomes more concerned that the war in Afghanistan is losing air time, making the work that she’s doing there almost pointless. She flies back to NYC for a meeting with the station head, only to find out that the station isn’t interested in putting more resources into this war. She’s also forced to face the reality that the decisions that she and the other journalists made may have cost people their lives or their livelihoods. She tries to take a break and go spend time with Iain, but finds out that he was kidnapped. Kim flies back to Khabul and uses the grit and contacts that she developed there to get Iain rescued by the marines.

Once Iain is rescued, Kim says goodbye to him and Khabul. She’s realized that this kind of thing has started to feel normal and that’s not what she wants her normal to be. Before she leaves, she has a very touching goodbye with Fahim, where the two hold hands using a suitcase as an intermediary in lieu of sharing a goodbye hug. Kim returns to the states where she visits a soldier that was reassigned after being part of one of her reports. He had been caught in a mortar blast after his reassignment, but he told her that she needed to forgive herself for her decisions and that there were a lot of factors that caused bad things to happen during a war. The movie ends with a flash forward to Kim working as a news anchor and preparing for an interview with Iain. Before the cameras come on, Iain says that he’d be in New York soon and asks her if she wants to meet of coffee.

Commentary

The movie is not bad by any means, but I felt that it was a little empty for lack of a better word. We watch a lot of things happen, but it’s really more about seeing the experience through Kim’s eyes instead of directly telling a story. If you’ve seen any of the previews for this movie, you would know the story that’s being told through the first two-thirds of the movie. That leaves the scenes with the nineties-music-infused parties that the journalists have as most entertaining/unexpected parts of the first two acts. The movie isn’t necessarily funny, but it’s charming at moments. The first act worked a little bit more like a documentary that has some humorous elements thrown into it just to keep it lively. Without much of a sense of tension or conflict up until the final act of the movie, the movie was really relying on that charm and a few special moments to get by. Sometimes it worked, like in the scene where a bunch of women revealed their faces to Kim all at once; or when she went into the middle of a firefight to get footage; or Kim and Fahim’s goodbye. However, there were too few scenes like that and too many repeated jokes like the “4-10-4 scale”, or how Kim would’ve made a handsome boy, that just didn’t do it for me. I’m sure part of that is because a lot of those jokes had already been used up in the advertising for the movie.
There are two primary conflicts introduced in the 2nd and 3rd acts. Since the movie didn’t have much in the way of any kind of internal monologue, most of the journey was narrated through Kim’s actions. That made it a unclear to me what, if anything, the conflict in the movie was outside of the actual war. It wasn’t until Kim’s Afghan friend makes a speech to her, that it’s fully revealed that Kim’s problem is becoming addicted to the thrill of being a war journalist. Then, the 3rd act introduces conflict very clearly when Kim’s new boyfriend is unceremoniously kidnapped and she has to come back to save him. I suppose that the conflict in the first act would’ve been Kim learning to overcome the mundane life that she had made for herself. I don’t normally find myself thinking about the source of conflict in a movie. I think this movie pulled that out of me because I had a hard time figuring out where it was going or what the point of the story that it was trying to tell was.
I’m also had a hard time figuring out why Margot Robbie was given such high billing in this movie. Martin Freeman carries more of the load as a supporting actor in the film. Honestly, he’s probably the best part about the movie. His character feels, maybe not more like a journalist, but more like the kind of personality that would thrive in a place like Afghanistan then either Margot Robbie’s or Tina Fey’s characters. Neither of them seem to have much to offer beyond their looks or their job description respectively. Then again, I fully understand wanting to put Margot Robbie out as the face of a project. The Big Short pretty clearly showed that making Margot Robbie the face of almost anything is a good idea.
Margot Robbie aside, this was a movie that I’d have a hard time recommending to anyone or re-watching myself. Again, it’s not bad, but there wasn’t a big selling point for the movie. If you’re a fan of the source material, Tina Fey, Margot Robbie or Martin Freeman, then I could see watching it just to support/see them. Otherwise, it doesn’t really stand out as being particularly good or bad. The one thing I should say about this movie (it didn’t really fit anywhere else) is that I think it did a good job of portraying women in a war. Not as soldiers, but as people living in an adverse situation. The movie steered clear of most of the misogynistic tropes that could’ve easily plagued both the male and female characters in a movie like this. It’s things like that that make me glad I saw the movie, even if I wouldn’t watch it again.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
7.34

Story / Plot

6/10

    Characters

    7/10

      Visuals

      9/10

        Music / Audio

        8/10

          Entertainment

          7/10

            Pros

            • Good performances from Fey, Robbie and Freeman
            • Has a few standout scenes with some good messages

            Cons

            • Despite trying to be insightful and humorous, it only marginally succeeds at being either.
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