Screenplay by Robert Carlock
Directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Sequa
Starring: Tina Fey, Martin Freeman, Margot Robbie, Billy Bob Thornton, Christopher Abbott, Alfred Molina
War. Seriously, WTF.
It’s probably about time we laughed about Afghanistan and Tina Fey’s new comedy is a good start. Dedicated to her late father, a Korean war veteran and journalist, and based on the memoir ‘The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan’, ‘Whiskey Tango Foxtrot’ is a self described dramedy.
In 2003, just as the war in Afghanistan is being overshadowed by developing events in Iraq, Kim Baker (Tina Fey), a disgruntled news copy journalist takes a short assignment to Kabul to report in the country that has been the bear trap of empires for centuries. The assignment, meant to be for three months, becomes three years as she gets used to the low budget nest of international journos she bunks with, the locals she comes to love and most of all the intoxicating danger of the stories she covers.
‘Whiskey Tango Foxtrot' is quite well written although some of the very intriguing loops that are opened are never actually closed again, leaving the viewer satisfied within limitations but with a niggling feeling something is missing. Still the film has heart and makes its point even if it does feel a little disjointed. What I can say is that Tina Fey fans will really enjoy it. She first came fully to my attention with ‘This is Where I Leave You’ and she carries off this part with similar poise. Few actors could make this role, that is little more than the forty something mid life crisis mould, work as she does. Her deadpan style meets its match in one of the more minor characters, that of General Holland (Billy Bob Thornton), unfortunately a dynamic of which a lot more could have been made.
While ‘Whiskey Tango Foxtrot’ could be considered lightweight for a film with such subject matter it does at the same time treat that subject matter with the an appropriate level of respect. For an otherwise uninspiring story that lives or dies on the quality of its wit, it doesn’t make the mistake that some god awful comedies make of trivialising and degrading the Afghans. Instead it does well in sending up the whole situation and the clash of cultures instead of resorting to lowest common denominator humour.
The truth is we have to be able to laugh at even the more horrific elements of life, it’s what makes life bearable, what puts it into perspective and most importantly, when humour is done well, it highlights the irony that abounds in such conflicts. I say, thank god (and the U.S.A) for intelligent Americans that can make fun of themselves.