Tina Fey ventures out of her comic comfort zone to play a fledgling war reporter in Afghanistan in Whiskey Tango Foxtrot and, although the film’s mix of laughs and drama is sometimes uneven, she proves admirably equal to the task.
The film is based on reporter Kim Barker’s autobiographical book The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan and Fey’s character (renamed Kim Baker) couldn’t be further removed from her own comfort zone when, anxious to shake up her torpid life, she volunteers to become an embedded war correspondent.
Kim’s cluelessness is the source of some slapstick fun as she gets to grips with life in Kabul, initially at a loss both with the locals and her hard-partying fellow expats. From Margot Robbie’s glamorous reporter Tanya Vanderpoel she learns that her sexual currency in the ‘Kabubble’ is worth much more than back home. A 6 or 7 in New York, according to Tanya, she is a 9, borderline 10 here. She has become ‘Kabul Cute’. (‘What are you?’ she asks the impossibly sexy Tanya. ‘A 15?’ The poker-faced reply is ‘Yes’.)
In due course, Martin Freeman’s cocky Scottish photojournalist turns out to be Kim’s romantic interest, while Alfred Molina’s politically ambitious government official proves to be her most significant Afghan contact. Fortunately, Kim becomes much savvier as she goes along and she also becomes unexpectedly addicted to the dangers of her new profession.
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Fey and the film do a good job of conveying the adrenaline-rush of war reporting but they don’t give us the full picture. Steering clear of the politics of Western intervention and paying lip service to the Afghan people’s suffering, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot ultimately takes fewer risks than its protagonist.
Certificate 15. Runtime 112 mins. Directors John Requa, Glenn Ficarra