Much like its clever name, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is a lot of things at once while, at the same time, being nothing at all.
Based on the book The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan by Kim Barker, Tina Fey stars as “Kim Baker”, an uninspired news writer who decides to ditch her cubicle to become a war correspondent in Afghanistan and Pakistan in 2002.
Kim’s time in Kabul is a series of strange events that put her around a host of different characters – a hard-nosed Marine general (Billy Bob Thornton), a beautiful Australian reporter (Margot Robbie), a crazy Scottish photographer with no filter (Martin Freeman), a trusty guide (Christopher Abbott), and a wacky politician (Alfred Molina).
WTF has its entertaining moments. Tanya (Robbie) telling Baker that she’s a “9” in Kabul because of the lack of women in the city is one of the few laugh out loud scenes. There’s even very intense sequence when Tanya tries to get an interview during a drone strike.
Is this a romantic comedy? Kind of. We get a small glimpse at Baker’s boyfriend that she left stateside, her lusting over a bodyguard, and her relationship with Iain (Freeman). Fey even slips into a familiar Liz Lemon-esque role during those scenes. There are constant reminders of romance throughout Baker’s story, but none it is flushed out.
Is it a movie about what’s happening in the countries we invade? Kind of. There’s an informative scene when Baker learns what the women are doing in one of the villages and why. It’s a nice peek into what’s happening in some of these villages that some people may not have considered. They could’ve dug into the struggles to empower women in these countries, but that story goes nowhere.
Is it a movie about the reporters who are brave enough to do these jobs? Kind of. Baker and her crew go on a few dangerous mission and are often in harms way. The crew parties like frat boys to blow of steam. There’s a little competition between reporters with everyone trying to cover the same stories, keep their jobs, and try and get a promotion. The story could’ve delved into how safe/unsafe it is for reporters, but it’s not really about that either.
Is it about the reporters becoming addicted to the adrenaline? Kind of. Fahim (Abbott) gives a passionate speech to Baker about how dangerous it is to keep pursuing stories and becoming addicted to the rush. What were these reporters willing to do to keep their jobs? What about the people they put in harms way? It’s a great angle for the movie, but the story spends very little time on that.
Is it about the fear of dangerous circumstances starting to feel normal? Kind of. Baker touches on that topic, but that topic doesn’t begin to get discussed until the end of the movie.
Despite Tina Fey and the rest of the cast give strong performances, Whisky Tango Foxtrot is a lot of parts that don’t add up to much. The story and performances suffer because of the film’s failure to find its focus. It tries to do too much and ends up producing empty storylines. WTF is the perfect acronym for this film. There’s a lot that happened in Kim Barker’s life during those years and trying to sum it up in 1hr 52 minutes just isn’t enough time.