Tina Fey has a proven track record of tickling many an audience’s funny bone. Not only is she a seasoned comedian but she is one who never shies away from controversial or awkward humor. Her newest film Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is a unique and entertaining adventure that places Fey’s character in a rather precarious situation: the war on terror. It is a fun and smart vehicle for the former SNL player and will appeal to most audiences, especially those who appreciate thought-provoking war comedies peppered with subtle humor and gritty action. Fans of Fey’s will eat this up and so will casual admirers of the gifted funny woman.
Based on real life journalist Kim Barker’s memoir The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan, WTF follows Kim Baker (named changed and played beautifully by Fey), a desk jockey at a TV news station, who, when an opportunity to really prove herself presents itself, is sent to the Middle East to report on the horrible conditions of the area and the war. Once there, she buddies up with sexy British journalist Tanya (Margot Robbie) and develops an offbeat romantic relationship with cocky Scottish photojournalist Iain (Martin Freeman). During her time in this exotic and very dangerous land, she also encounters helpful local guide Fahim (Christopher Abbott), no nonsense Marine Col. Hollanek (Billy Bob Thornton) and sleazy local politician Ali Massed Sadiq (Alfred Molina). All in all, Barker is in over her head and the results make for a rather solid and enjoyable film.
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is a refreshingly different dramedy, mixing humor, romance, and action in a way that not only works but will make you see Tina Fey in a slightly different light. There are as many tender moments of sensitivity as there moments of broad comedy. Fey has nailed it here with a role that has many layers and will resonate deeply with audiences. She probably won’t win any awards for WTF but she has really gone outside her comfort zone a bit and managed to show a slightly new side of her acting ability. The rest of the cast also gives it their all especially Martin Freeman who plays an arrogant yet likable Scotsman who gets into some hot water. The always reliable Billy Bob Thornton and Alfred Molina also steal the show with their over-the-top and colorful roles.
While WTF isn’t a blockbuster or a hugely thoughtful cinematic masterpiece, it is a fun Lorne Michaels-produced movie that will put a smile on your face, not an easy task for a war film. The conflicts in Afghanistan and Pakistan are presented well here and the gravity of the situation is ever present. Having said that, however, Baker’s journey not only takes her to hostile territory but sends her on a quest to find herself. Baker’s self discovery is really the film’s main attraction and Fey is perfectly cast as the dedicated and worldly journalist. With her Sarah Palin impressions and ridiculously goofy comedies behind her (hopefully), Whiskey Tango Foxtrot shines the spotlight on a new Tina Fey, a Tina Fey who isn’t afraid to make a war film and make it funny. Films like this rarely come about, so if you’re looking for something new and quirky to watch, then WTF is the way to go.