Tina Fey and Robert Carlock are a dream team of writer/actor combination, having worked together on Saturday Night Live, 30 Rock, the Golden Globes and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, they are now spreading into film with Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. Fey plays journalist Kim Baker, who after being hit with the realisation of how repetitive and mundane her life is, decides to take the opportunity to pack her (overly orange) bag and head off to Afghanistan to become a war reporter. Also starring, Margot Robbie, Martin Freeman, Alfred Molina, Christopher Abbot, Billy Bob Thornton and Nicholas Braun.
Tina Fey is a name that is practically synonymous with comedy, she might not be as well known here across the pond but there’s no doubt that in America she is comedic royalty and that’s what makes her choice to do this film so interesting because it is a fairly serious role disguised as comedy. Though Fey’s hapless foreigner at first arrival in Afghanistan is fun to watch, she gets into her element when things get a little hairy and proves that she can do more than deliver a one liner. Her character Kim has a lot to go through in this film and Fey presents a very relatable and sympathetic character to lead the audience. Then there’s the characters right by her side, Freeman as Scottish photographer Ian and Robbie as fellow journalist Tanya, both of which have their moments of comedy but pull their weight when more is asked of them. Robbie in particular is showing again and again that she is a more than capable actress from breaking out in Wolf of Wall Street to her upcoming and highly anticipated role of Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad, she’s become hot property in Hollywood and it’s certainly a bonus having her using her own Aussie accent in this one.
Part of this films quality does come from the humour it brings to such a serious issue, and with some fantastic lines brought by all characters, a lot of which are quiet and sneaked into the dialogue which you might miss and this may be one of those films that if you watch it again you’ll find more than you originally did. On the other hand, there’s a huge area of more serious material that the film goes into, that strays from what has been advertised and exploring themes of the affect war has on a person physically and emotionally, as well as the real danger of the situation that they’re in, all humour aside. Surprisingly the team behind the film have managed to intermingle the two worlds of humour and genuine meaning, without it becoming too jumbled and having a smooth transition from one to the other, although it does still feel that the humour element limits the film from going too deep and becomes slightly lightweight. The only other issue is that it could be shortened slightly, not every second feels completely necessary and it would help the storytelling, which itself is good, just to hit a little harder. A quick comparison to make might be with Sandra Bullock in Our Brand is Crisis, which marketed itself as a comedy when it went into much more ethical quandaries which undeniably hurt the film upon release, taking audiences on a completely different journey than they expected, undermining the actual quality of it, though Whiskey Tango Foxtrot does the opposite of straddling that line of comedy in a much more intrinsic way to the film but it misses out on hitting the serious note to its full affect.
This is one that’s quite difficult to judge because there are many ways in which it’s really good but there’s a quality to it that because it attempts to hit a more serious note, it’s stuck somewhere in-between a comedy and a drama, giving it less of a punch even though it is entertaining to watch. Overall it’s a great role for Fey with some great writing, made in a way that you can have both the real effects of war mixed in with jokes about dogs humping each other ( I know it sounds very odd, but it’s true).