Movie Review 'Whiskey Tango Foxtrot'

Tina Fey changes gears, slightly, in a film probably no one is expecting. WHISKEY TANGO FOXTROT is a movie like no other. At its basis it joins subtle humor with near classic rom-com moments and throws them smack dab in the middle of a full-fledged war movie. This isn’t some typical ridiculous Tina Fey absurd comedy. The filmmakers have built a script surrounded by an actress that supports their style of humor but doesn’t over do it. Whilst crude and vulgar at times, this is no Judd Apatow-like raunchy flick. Rather Whiskey Tango Foxtrot brings a fresh style to the mixes with perhaps a sleeper hit for March. Don’t write this one off.

Tina Fey plays Kim Baker in Whiskey Tango Foxtrot from Paramount Pictures and Broadway Video/Little Stranger Productions in theatres March 4, 2016.

Marketing has missed the mark on this one as I believe most wont exactly know what they’re getting themselves into. While some may be fully aware of the story or the book by Kim Barker, “The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan”, the trailers don’t give this movie any justice; featuring awkward humor and one-liners that play into what one may find in an episode of 30-Rock, you’ll find the movie actually offers so much more.

Written by the witty Robert Carlock, one may expect an abundance of silliness and corky jokes as one would find in Carlock’s other shows like 30-Rock and The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Atlas the audience will find a whole other side in an almost different genre. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot gets REAL at times with gritty war scenes and damn gore-y shots I didn’t come to expect yet was pleasantly surprised. At times I found myself inthralled with a sense of realism and transparency on a war that many didn’t care to look closely into.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot follows a cable news writer and producer Kim Barker (Tina Fey) who lands a new assignment in Afghanistan in 2002 covering a war that became quickly forgotten when America headed for Iraq. Stuck in unfamiliar and uncomfortable territory, Barker finds herself in the midst of a quite frightening war zone where a westernized female wouldn’t blend in well. Quickly after arrival Barker finds herself closely bunking with Tanya Vanderpoel, Margot Robbie (Focus, A Wolf on Wall Street), a fellow journalist who helps her settle in with her new surroundings. In attempt to discover the breaking stories, Barker finds herself in the middle of gun shootouts, warlords love interests, and weekly heavy partying. Barker must battle keeping the war in Afghanistan interesting to news outlets while also finding her ultimate end game.

Margot Robbie plays Tanya Vanderpoel in Whiskey Tango Foxtrot from Paramount Pictures and Broadway Video/Little Stranger Productions in theatres March 4, 2016.

Besides the incredibly well-shot war scenes, though perhaps a little controversial to those close to the military, the perfectly developed cast of characters is a driving force for the film. Tina Fey is ultimately herself yet toned down, but her character is developed with believability and remains relatable to many. A definite breakout performance for the former Saturday Night Live cast member whom I could see actually taken on more serious roles. Margot Robbie is still stunning to watch and the two play off the fact she is a solid 10 in the states but a 15 in Afghanistan. There is no denying that, even with the joke being carried on a little too long.

WHISKEY TANGO FOXTROTThe rest of the ensemble includes a thick Scottish accented Martin Freeman (The Hobbit) who plays a womanizing tool but a bit of a goober. I don’t think Martin Freeman can really ever not be a goober, however his role here has him playing a bit of an ass even though he is able contain his charm. Alfred Molina plays Afghan mogul Ali Massoud Sadiq who grows a boy-like crush on Barker and performs some hilarious antics. This is where the movie becomes a little too ridiculous to fit in with the rest of the narrative, but I would be lying if I said it wasn’t still enjoyable. Don’t forget about Billy Bob Thorton, a high-ranking Marine that finds respect for the ‘ballsy’ but dedicated Kim Barker. He isn’t anything less than one would expect from a Thorton character.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is actually much more than it pretends to be. It’s a solid drama that is complemented by lots of laughter. The humor is geared toward an over 25-year-old crowd that still enjoys its crudeness and sexual escapades, but still wants some intelligence and well-developed story. The cinematography is sharp and welcomed to a movie billed as just another comedy flick. Many scenes feel organic though much of the film was just filmed in the desert landscape of that scary place called New Mexico. A kudos is in order to Xavier Grobet for making Albuquerque look like the crumbling towns of Afghanistan. Or is that not much of a stretch?

Left to right: Director Glenn Ficarra, Tina Fey, Producer Ian Bryce and Department of Defense Director of Entertainment Media Phil Strub on the set of Whiskey Tango Foxtrot from Paramount Pictures and Broadway Video/Little Stranger Productions in theatres March 4, 2016.
Left to right: Director Glenn Ficarra, Tina Fey, Producer Ian Bryce and Department of Defense Director of Entertainment Media Phil Strub on the set of Whiskey Tango Foxtrot from Paramount Pictures

It’s a journey story of a personal change, not a coming of age, but a finding of content of who you are. Warlock and Barker find an uplifting and motivating end allowing a moment of mental escapability. A goal of mine for any movie I see. It’s a long one, and at times feels long because there is so much depiction of just “living” opposed to just standard story progression. It’s not a fault but worthy of a note for a forewarning it’s just under 2-hours.

A very rewarding film that gives you reason to care for the characters and brings some behind-the-scenes look at a war not many talked about. It’s a movie that delivers so much more at its core without a preachy narrative or deeply rooted political agenda. I found the film to be refreshing and different in a movie marketplace of so much predictability. Worthy of a trip to the theater.

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Joel Covey

Joel has been writing for SoCalThrills for the past decade covering entertainment, events, and theater since joining the site. He is a CSUF alum, studying within the Communication and Radio / TV / Film colleges.