Going to Afghanistan is an extreme way to shake up your life, but for those of us who work in an office cubicle, it’s hard not to be a little sympathetic. Whisky Tango Foxtrot is an adaptation of Kim Barkers 2010 book “The T Shuffle”, and has Kim (Tina Fey) as a novice reporter in Kabul, standing out because of her gender as much as her hi-vis backpack.
Being in a warzone is one thing, but Kim also has to navigate her fellow reporters. They, and their associated entourage, all stay together in a drunken dormitory, closed off from the reality of the outside city. Working hard, but playing harder, they compete and cooperate in equal measure. Kim is warned early that you can become addicted to the correspondent lifestyle, but as she begins to adapt to her role there is a growing sense of war weariness on the home-front.
Zero Dark Thirty (2012) made it very difficult for war movies to follow, particularly those set in the Middle East. Smartly Whiskey Tango Foxtrot doesn’t even try to emulate it. Instead, it stays mostly war adjacent, focusing on Kim rather than the actual warfare. This is Liz Lemon goes to war, and how you feel about Tina Fey will drive your feelings toward the movie. It’s far meatier than anything else she’s done before, but she never really disappears into the character. There are more snide remarks flying around than bullets and eventually the sanitised view of the supposedly war-torn city feels a bit put on. Casting white actors in Afgan roles doesn’t help with the realism.
Ultimately the movie suffers from the same war fatigue that frustrates the reporters in the film. It’s not that we don’t care, it’s just that Whiskey Tango Foxtrot doesn’t show us anything new and it lacks the grit of a true war movie or the cynicism of a satire, leaving it stuck no man’s land. Exactly where you don’t want to be in a warzone.
Not Required Viewing