Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

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Whiskey-Tango-Foxtrot-Movie-PosterWTF?: “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” in military radio jargon. Something like “what the hell?” or “why the hell not?” in American slang. So WTF is a nice girl like Tina Fey doing in the middle of the American military misadventure in Afghanistan?

Making us laugh, and cry, and think. Along with a very strong supporting cast.

Christopher Abbot is Fahim, Kim Baker’s (Tina Fey’s character) chaperone and fixer. A doctor in better times, Fahim at one point warns Kim against the higher and higher adrenaline fixes she requires as she morphs from a frustrated, going nowhere, facing middle age, cable news desk jockey to a front-line war reporter.

Margot Robbie plays Tanya, an Aussie sexpot and (no stretch here) seasoned war reporter, who is Kim’s friend and competitor for both nookie and news. Tanya draws Kim ever deeper into the “Kabubble”: the alternate reality that is the cloistered, yet totally out there, world of international journalists based in Kabul. They are shielded from the harsh realities of the war, unless they venture out and shielded from the “normality” of American home life. Kim’s life becomes a mad rush of adrenaline-soaked “imbed” reportage and a dulling regimen of booze, drugs, and sex.

Albert Molina dons a scruffy beard and a cheap suit to deliver a small but pivotal role as a lecherous Afghan government official. I won’t spoil the fun about how Kim turns the tables when her friend has been kidnapped.

That friend, a Scottish war photog named Iain, comes to blustery life through the ever versatile Martin Freeman. Unlike his roles as the hobbit Bilbo Baggins or as Sherlock’s sidekick Dr. Watson, Iain’s role shows off Freeman’s chops at swagger and bravado – before exposing his loyalty and decency.

Tina Fey has a way of submerging into characters and gently accentuating their quirks. Her Sarah Palin takes advantage of just how much la Palin is an unconscious and uncaring self-satire. I’m sure Fey did the same for the vulnerability, self-consciousness and grit of the real life Kim Baker. Baker wrote a memoir, “The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” which Lorne Michaels and Tina Fey optioned for this movie. Baker is now a reporter at the New York Times.

The film ends with a poignant and thoughtful scene between Tina and Evan Jonigkeit as a Marine mustered out of the war with his legs blown off by an IED. Rising above his usual Marvel comic roles, Jonigkeit recites centuries of could-have-beens that would have avoided his injury, and concludes, as does the movie, that the show we call life must go on.

Phil Neches

 

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One Response to “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot”

  1. I really liked the film also. And it showed how a female reporter (Kim Baker was with the NY Times, not TV) could get access to information from the Afgani women that the men couldn’t. This took our forces years to figure out. Tina Fey is more versatile than her SNL and Liz Lemon roles and this reinforces it.

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