"Whiskey Tango Foxtrot" (2016 release; 111 min.) brings the story ("Based on a True Story" we are reminded) of Kim Baker (played by Tina Fay.. As the movie opens, we see Baker in a heated argument with an Afghani man. Then we go "Two Years Earlier", where Baker, looking miserable, is in a team meeting for some news outfit. When told that there is a shortage of TV journalists in Afghanistan, Baker does not hesitate, and she volunteers, supposedly for a three month assignment. Next thing, we see Baker arrive at the Kabul Airport. At this point we are at most 10 minutes into the movie but to tell you more would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.
Couple of comments: this movie is the big screen adaptation of the book "The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan" by real-life TV reporter Kim Barker (not sure why in the movie the names becomes "Baker"). The movie is the latest for directing team Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, who previously brought us "Crazy Stupid Love" and "Focus", among others. Here, they, along with producers Lorne "SNL" Michaels and Tina Fay herself, try to give us a glimpse of what it was like for an inexperienced journalist to come to Afghanistan in 2003 and report on the war. The early past of the movie shows us how Baker is adjusting to her new environment, and what a shock to the system it is indeed. Along the way we get to know fellow journalist Tanya Vanderpoel, (played by up-and-coming Australian actress Margot Robbie who also was in "Focus"). But the movie really takes off in the second hour (no worries, I won't spoil). Incredibly, Google Movie Times bills this as a 'comedy', and IMDb categorizes it as "Comedy, War". Please note: this is NOT a comedy. If you are going to see this, expecting many laugh-out-loud moments as only Tina Fey the comedian can bring them you are going to be sorely disappointed and let down. Sure, there are a few good chuckles early on as Baker/Fey adjusts to life in Afghanistan, but that's it. "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot" is a journalistic war drama, period. Not sure whether it is the producers or the studio who are pushing this as a 'comedy' but that is a grave mistake. Besides Fey and Robbie, there are many other fine performances, including Billy Bob Thornton in a small role as a Marine Corps General. Last but bot least, there is a lot of great music in the film, including the original score, courtesy of Nick "DeVotchKa" Urata, and also a bunch of song placements, such as Radiohead's "Nude", the National's "Green Gloves" and Harry Nillson's "Without You", which I will never listen to the same way again, seeing how it was used in this movie. Bottom line: "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot" is a fine movie, shouldered by Tina Fey NOT being funny.
"Whiskey Tango Foxtrot" was released nationwide this weekend. The Sunday matinee screening where I saw this at here in Cincinnati was not attended well, I am sad to report. Apparently it underperformed elsewhere too, grossing only $7 million, far below expectations. That is a darn shame. I blame both the (intentional or not) mislabeling of this as a 'comedy' when it is nothing near that, and/or fatigue among US audiences on seeing movies about the wars in Afghanistan or Iraq. Regardless, I enjoyed "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot" a lot for what it is (journalistic war drama). If you have a chance to catch this, be it in theaters, on Amazon Instant Video or eventually on DVD/Blu-ray, I strongly encourage you to do so as this movie deserves a bigger audience. "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot" is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!