War can be funny, right?
Kim Barker (Tina Fey) works as a boring cable news producer and needs something more out of life. Even though she has a serious relationship with her boyfriend (Josh Charles), it’s still not nearly as fulfilling and there’s that feeling in the pit of her stomach where she knows that she can do more with her life – she just doesn’t know where that’s at yet. That’s why, in 2002, when the opportunity presents itself, she decides to take up a daring, but ultimately ambitious new assignment in Kabul, Afghanistan, where she’ll not only cover the war, but experience more to life than what was waiting for her back at home. And while it takes her some time to get used to her uncomfortable surroundings, eventually, Kim finds herself not just inspired to go out and find the best story possible, but to also open herself up to those around her. This is when she befriends the likes of Tanya Vanderpoel (Margot Robbie), a fellow journalist, Iain MacKelpie (Martin Freeman), a Scottish war correspondent, and Fahim Ahmadzai (Christopher Abbott), a citizen of Afghanistan, who is also there to help her navigate throughout the city and understand the ideals. While this seems hard at first, Kim eventually gets the hang of it all, until it becomes almost too real that the situation’s she’s dealing with are very serious, and almost scary.
You know, just as you’d expect from a war.
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is a very odd duckling of a film. For one, it seems a lot like Eat, Pray, Love in that it features a relatively middle-aged woman, coming to a crossroads in her life, not knowing what she wants to do with it, where she wants go with it, or who she wants to spend it with, so decides to take one giant leap that her old formal-self would have never even imagined. On the other hand, it tries to be a serious, melodramatic and important statement about the war, Afghanistan, and relations between both countries. Both movies, work fine on their own, but together, well, it’s unfortunately a huge mess.
It also just so happens to be one that no matter how hard she tries, Tina Fey just can’t seem to get past. Though Kim is, essentially, a lot like the other protagonists Fey has portrayed in the past, she still is, at the same time, a “type” that we’re pretty used to seeing. She’s got a bit more attitude and sass to her than usual, but really, Kim is made out to be our conduit for this great new environment that so many movies have discussed and portrayed in the past, but not nearly as much as in a comedic-light. Fey does a fine job as standing in for us and just allowing for the movie to happen, but really, it’s a forgettable performance that basically gets lost in the fact that this movie has way, way too much going on in it.
None of which, mind you, actually gel together in a cohesive manner.
While it’s admirable that directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa want to make something considered to be “funny”, out of the Afghan war, it doesn’t work well. Mainly, this is due to the fact that the jokes are, yes, very stale and not to much, quite offensive and odd. I’m all for jokes hitting a hard spot and not being in the best taste imaginable, but when you’re dealing with the war, Afghanistan, and their certain ideologies that aren’t shared by the rest of the world, there’s a fine line you tread between being “funny”, or “mean-spirited”.
In all honesty, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot doesn’t seem like a very mean-spirited movie, per se, however, its casting proves otherwise. Not only does the movie feature an Italian-Spanish actor like Alfred Molina, as a native, but even goes so far as to make us think the same of Christopher Abbott as one, too, who isn’t just Italian and Portuguese, but, as you can clearly tell by looking at the color of his skin throughout the whole movie, absolutely, positively, no doubt about it, white.
Heck, at least Molina’s got a tan going on – Abbot’s still pale as if he just walked off of the set of Girls!
And while the movie tries to make these two characters at least somewhat endearing, it still feels very weird to watch them work with these accents and, at the same time, still make us believe that they’re playing these natives who are much wiser and understanding than the other, whiter characters in the movie. This is all to say that no cast-member does a bad job, really, it’s just it’s obvious that the movie doesn’t care about what they have to do, and instead, allows them pass-off poor jokes about race, war, and sex.
And none of this would have been a problem, had the movie been the very least funny, but it isn’t. Not to mention, it’s also not very smart, either. All of the points it tries to bring up about the war (which come very few and far between), don’t really seem to make people think anything differently than what we see in the news. Fey’s character is made out to believe that Afghanistan can be and is starting to become, a brutal place – not just for women, or white people, but for everyone who is living there. While this is especially true of their environment, the movie touches on it every so often, as if it feels like it’s inclined to do the job, rather than actually wanting to do so.
If anything, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot wants to discuss the Afghanistan war, nearly as much as Our Brand Is Crisis wanted to talk about the FNB and Bolivia.
And when your movie is being compared to that movie, well, let me just say that you’re not in good company.
Consensus: By working both a whimsical rom-com, as well as a super serious, meaningful war-drama, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot has a lot to deal with and doesn’t know what to do with either side, nor its talented cast.
2.5 / 10
Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire