Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is the newest Tina Fey film that promises to be a fun filled outrageous comedy about a hilariously awkward female reporter looking for love who’s thrust into the wacky madness and fish-out-of-water hi-jinx of war time Afghanistan- but is anything but that. Which turns out to be great.
What viewers get instead is a remarkably grounded and realistic adaptation of former Seattle Times reporter Kim Barker’s book, “The Taliban Shuffle”, which follows her experience as a war journalist during the later, more unpopular and forgotten, stretch of of the conflict there. It is a coming of age story about being able to stop chasing life in search of the next big goal or thrill and being able to find success, purpose, and a meaningful place in the world on your own terms.
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is not so much a comedy as a “life is a funny thing” type of story. It does a convincing job of showing how even the extremes of war can feel normal, familiar, and even increasingly mundane and that people will find a way to carry on and adapt. It is a refreshingly authentic feeling story of how people change and grow. It makes the brave choice of forsaking the traditional route of cashing in on the adventure and despair of war and choosing to not just tell a heavily romanticized tale of an overly attractive successful white woman like a coffee-house reading of an exotic travel blog.
Tina Fey’s performance adds dimension to what might in other films have been an over dramatized role by giving it a sense of humanity and believability. Martin Freeman plays a less than perfect but perfectly acceptable eventual love interest as a rather small aspect of the film that only really develops towards the end. There is a running joke in the film that war zones create a bubble where 6’s look like 10’s and that everyone eventually falls prey to it or benefits by it. In the end, the real lesson is that no matter what you are on the scale you can find a place where you can live life with the happiness and confidence of a 10.
While hi-jinks and awkward tales of sex and romance do still exist in the movie, it is presented like the bittersweet memories of a Summer sleep-away camp rather than a montage set to Get Ur Freak On by Missy Elliott that somehow causes Tina Fey to drop everything she touches in a bumbling mess like an infomercial scene.
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is the best unexpected witty and amusing drama of the season. Go see it, you won’t regret it. Out in theaters now.
Rated R (profanity, sexuality, drug use, war violence).