I knew my husband and I would love Whiskey Tango Foxtrot as soon as I saw the trailer. The main character (Tina Fey) is a journalist like I am, she works in the Middle East where I grew up and my husband has served, there are plenty of hilarious military jokes, and it’s fabulously inappropriate and riotously funny.
Still, even with the inkling that we’d love it, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot was one of the best comedies I’ve seen in a while. America has been involved in this war in the Middle East for so long now, and there are parts of it that are terribly tragic and devastating, and also parts of it that are crazy and absurd. As my husband noted after watching the film on opening night, “It felt like a return to the classic ‘war comedy,’ which is a genre that has kind of gone missing during our country’s current conflicts. Most contemporary war movies are dramas in the fullest sense, intense and shocking, and with barely a joke to be found. This was a surprising but refreshing perspective.”
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is based on the memoir The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan by Kim Barker. The movie takes us into the life of Kim Barker (Tina Fey), an “unmarried and childless” cable news producer in New York. Discouraged by her boring life and her noncommittal boyfriend, she decides to take a three-month assignment in Kabul, Afghanistan, in 2002.
The terrifying airplane landing, the human jostling in the airport, the women screaming at her to cover up her head — Kim knows she isn’t in Kansas anymore. Soon she is initiated into the world of foreign news correspondents, which is like a crazy college dorm with more edge and a lot more competition for the next best story. With a Marine General (Billy Bob Thornton), she travels to the front lines, and with the assistance and friendship of two fellow news correspondents (Margot Robbie and Martin Freeman), she grows into a wiser, more complex individual and reporter.
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot won’t appeal to everyone, but I think it could be especially enjoyed in Coronado, where many locals have experienced the war firsthand. There is a lot of humor to be seen even in the horror, and Tina Fey delivers that with her pitch-perfect timing and tongue-in-cheek humor. Don’t take your kids — it’s rated R for good reasons — but be ready for a theater full of guffaws and the reminder that there’s a comical side to every story.
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
Director: Glenn Ficarra and John Requa
Starring: Tina Fey, Margot Robbie, Martin Freeman, Christopher Abbott, Alfred Molina and Billy Bob Thornton
Run time: 1 hr 51 minutes
Rated: Rated R for for pervasive language, some sexual content, drug use, and violent war images.