Hehe… WTF. The only reason I figured that out is because I used to work with a guy who was in the military and spoke that kind of jargon occasionally.
In any case, this movie had Tina Fey and Margot Robbie! There’s a team-up I didn’t expect, but was very curious to see if would work out. Yeah, I was looking forward to seeing this movie if only for the star power. So sit back and enjoy some light reading. This is my honest opinion of WHISKEY TANGO FOXTROT.
An adaptation of the book, The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan, a memoir written by war correspondent Kim Barker. Set during the mid-2000’s, the story follows TV news reporter Kim Baker (Tina Fey). Deciding to take part in reporting the events happening in Afghanistan, she leaves the comfort of her home in New York and quickly falls in love with her work; the constant chaos, the strange culture, and her new friends, fellow news reporter Tanya Vanderpoel (Margot Robbie) and a growing romantic relationship with photo journalist Iain MacKelpie (Martin Freeman).
DISCLAIMER: Before anyone starts pointing out any errors in Kim’s last name, they’re not mistakes. The character in the movie is named Kim BAKER, whereas the real woman’s name is Kim BARKER. Trust me, I’ll address this later.
While I won’t say I didn’t like it, I can’t in good conscious say that it’s a particularly good movie.
Let’s start with the good.
Fey is, as usual, fine. I have no problem with watching her act on screen, whether she’s being goofy and funny, or serious and somber. Like most comedians, she can play both very well. I disagree with Collider.com’s review in which the writer thinks that Fey doesn’t have range. While I agree that any time she branches out into more dramatic roles, and they do seem like recycled characters, she plays those roles well. This is no different. It feels like she’s playing a real person. Not everyone is a stone-faced serious person, and not everyone is the class clown. Some people really do have bouts of both personas. Maybe they lean more one way or the other, but they’re still more grey than that. This opinion extends to the supporting cast as well. (for Collider.com’s review, the link is below)
There’s also a few standout scenes as well. There’s a scene near the end of the movie where Kim has tracked down a Marine that she interviewed once and, while I won’t give anything away here, there are some really tender and very real emotions that got me going. It’s a great feel-good scene that made me leaving the theater still thinking about it and still smiling about it.
There’s also a kick-ass scene with Kim and Ali Massoud Sadiq, played by Alfred Molina, where he thinks he’s about to see some quality white girl nudity, but Kim breaks out a video recording that could get him into a lot of trouble if the public saw how it looked. Again, I won’t mention any context, but I felt like cheering when that scene concluded.
But as previously mentioned, the good may stick out in my mind, but that doesn’t overshadow everything that the movie does almost uncomfortably wrong.
I want to be clear, I have not read the book this movie adapted, so I can’t attest to Kim Barker’s professionalism while she was overseas, but this movie portrays her as a borderline party-girl in exotic clothing. Literally, she barely does anything in the movie other than drink, get laid, get gawked at, and occasionally interviews someone. It also seems to be a contradiction of character because she states at one point that she chose to be a reporter in Afghanistan because she wanted out of her mundane life. Aside from the fact that we don’t really get a sense of how dull her life is back home, in fact, it seems pretty laid back, but we don’t even really see her love for what she’s doing in this foreign place either. She makes no active attempt to chase down leads for stories to report, no new leads, taking risks to get in on anything juicy, she just… drinks and fucks.
This unfortunately leads to another big problem with Kim: she’s not interesting. Yeah, I said Fey did well enough to make the role believable, but this believable role is boring and not memorable. Because her actions are repetitive, there’s no reason for the audience to care about what she does or what happens to her other than the aesthetic draw of “Tina Fey.”
And last but not least, the cardinal sins of the movie: complete ignorance and accuracy of the original source material.
Let me clarify regarding “ignorance,” this movie isn’t giving false information about what’s going on in Afghanistan or anything, or at least not that I would know… instead, it doesn’t tell you anything about what’s going on there, at all.
There’s an interesting point that’s brought up in the movie: “Our troops are still in Afghanistan. What are they still doing out there?” Afghanistan is the “Forgotten War” and it never informs the audience what’s happening. Standard skirmishes that don’t mean anything or lead anywhere, and even if that’s actually what’s going on, one would think that would merit some explanation too or clarify why this story needs to be told.
And finally, “accuracy to the source material.” Once again, I’m not speaking as someone who has read the book, or as an American who keeps up with current events of the world. However, I have to question a few things that were, on record, changed. Remember my disclaimer? Yeah, they changed Kim Barker’s last name to Kim Baker… for some reason. According to writer Joseph Rose of oregonlive.com, in his article he reports that the following changes were made in the name of, “pacing and to help the film’s chances at the box office.” Um… does the last name of “Baker” really have a higher draw in revenue and higher critical praise as opposed to the last name “Barker?” Was this tested in a lab? If so, Mr. Rose, you forgot to mention that completely implausible possibility! A pox on you, sir! No, but seriously, these were the changes: (as previously mentioned) Kim Barker’s last name, and Barker’s occupation as a war correspondent. That’s just the stuff that was mentioned in Mr. Rose’s article. Who knows what else was changed.
And to make matters even more hilarious, in the same article on oregonlive.com, Barker refused that her movie would feel like Eat, Pray, Love, a but war movie version. Well, in the same review by Collider.com, that review makes that very comparison! I wonder if that writer read the same article I did and that’s why the comparison was made. Wink wink, Collider, you sly dogs *playful nudge*.
In any case, in oregonlive.com’s article, Barker didn’t seem like she cared too much about the changes, which, fair enough, but the movie, similar to EDDIE THE EAGLE, fails as an adaptation of true events and should have just been a fictional story. There’s too many changes from the real thing that it’s hard to trust what’s being told on screen. I suppose the difference here, why it’s a negative as opposed to an indifference, is that EDDIE THE EAGLE was an enjoyable and fun movie with likable characters. WHISKEY TANGO doesn’t quite measure up to that level.
So yeah, Fey is fun to watch, but you’ll forget the role as soon as you drive home from the cinema. While not absolutely horrible, it’s nothing to write home about either and probably isn’t as informative as it should be.
My honest rating: a weak 3/5