Review: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (Tina Fey)

A film that exists entirely within its own Kabubble of normalcy.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (WTF) poster - AustraliaBased on Kim Barker’s journalistic memoir The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the subtly name-changed Kim Baker (Tina Fey) finds herself covering the Afghanistan conflict in the early 2000s after being dissatisfied with her menial desk job. Alongside correspondents Tanya Vanderpoel (Margot Robbie) and the sleazy Scottish freelance photographer Iain MacKelpie (Martin Freeman), a short jaunt becomes her whole focus as they all collectively get stuck in what they call the “Kabubble” of normalcy.

A 2011 New York Times article noted that in Barker’s original book, “she depicts herself as a sort of Tina Fey character,” and tonally the film fits in perfectly with Fey’s oeuvre. Indeed, there’s a little something of Robert Altman’s M*A*S*H as the first half of Crazy Stupid Love directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa’s film turns from fish-out-of-water culture shock comedy to a darker shade of introspection, boosted by writer Robert Carlock’s ear for clever dialogue. The tension between this transition causes some pacing issues in an elongated second act, but thanks to the strong performances from Fey and Freeman in particular, viewers may find themselves in their own Kabubble and strangely compelled to spend a little more time with these characters. Chameleon Alfred Molina plays Ali Massoud Sadiq in a small but troubling role, one that either speaks to the potential racial insensitivity of the film, or its observational approach to an outsider’s view of a foreign land. WHISKEY TANGO FOXTROT is a curious film in the end, and there’s a lot to unpack in it. Most will come for the performances, but stay for the universal (if somewhat heavy-handed) thematic undercurrent of self-empowerment, as strange a concept as that is for a film set in Afghanistan.

WHISKEY TANGO FOXTROT is released in Australia on 12 May 2016 from Paramount.

2016 | US | Dir: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa | Writers: Robert Carlock  | Cast: Tina Fey, Margot Robbie, Martin Freeman, Alfred Molina, Billy Bob Thornton | Distributor: Paramount | Running time: 112 minutes | Rating:★★★½ (7/10).