Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (2016) film review

Year: 2016
Running Time: 112 minutes
Director: Glen Ficarra and John Requa
Writers: Kim Barker (based on the book "The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan" by), Robert Carlock (screenplay)
Cast: Tina Fey, Margot Robbie, Martin Freeman, Alfred Molina, Christopher Abbott, Billy Bob Thornton, Sheila Vand, Stephen Peacocke, Nicholas Braun

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is now showing in cinemas everywhere and is distributed by Paramount Pictures.

Many have questioned how Whiskey Tango Foxtrot can be a comedy about war, as there is nothing funny about what is happening out there in the world of armed forces at the present time. The truth is that Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is not a comedy about war, but a film about war that features comedic aspects about the absurdity of life. In understanding this and watching the film with this mindset, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is incredibly enjoyable and entertaining with an outstanding screenplay which gives an unrelenting view of the lives of those at the war, but not in the war.

Before American Kim Baker (Tina Fey) is hand-picked by her employer to become a war correspondent on the ground in Afghanistan, she is stuck in a rut supplying news stories for the pretty people to report on air and in a relationship that doesn't seem to be going anywhere. Once she arrives in the Middle East, her world suddenly becomes a series of risky and dangerous events that start to become unnaturally accepted as normal. With the companionship of British reporter, Tanya Vanderpoel (Margot Robbie) and Scottish photographer, Iain MacKelpie (Martin Freeman), Kim starts to feel as though Afghanistan is her home despite the love/hate relationship she forms with the country.

Based on the book "The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan" by Kim Barker, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot can be described as a cross between M*A*S*H and The Hurt Locker with a journalistic slant. At it's core, it's main theme reflects that of The Hurt Locker which is that war is like a drug as it becomes increasingly addictive. In Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, we come to understand that the journalists reporting from the site of combat become addicted to the thrill of pushing the boundaries to get the biggest story they possibly can. In what the film calls "The Kabubble", they lose touch with reality and start to see certain things as being normal when away from the war they would be considered extremely dangerous and risky.Yet, their lives back in their home cities are no longer satisfying and they crave the rush of living on the edge. It is a common perception that the best journalists will do anything to get a story and this film does symbolise this, but this can become a life-threatening state  mind when in a country like Afghanistan.

While Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is based on the experiences of reporter Kim Barker during her time in the Middle East,  it is not a retelling of her memoirs. The book is indeed the basis for the film, but the liberties taken by screenwriter, Robert Carlock allow for the film to become a representation of those who are in a war zone, but not taking part in combat itself. The liberties taken increase the tension of the film so to make it slot into the war genre with the intensity you would expect to find in such a film.  The Afghanistan recreated on film is gritty with a sense of resonating instability. The production design is very well done and combined with the superb cinematography makes the film rather atmospheric.

What makes Whiskey Tango Foxtrot humorous despite it's serious themes, is it's representations of the absurdity of life and the comedic undertones of culture shock. It is a case of the common notion of it wasn't funny at the time, but is so looking back on it. The character of Kim Baker goes from her mundane New York life to being launched into the complete opposite of everything she knows in Afghanistan. The way she is treated as a woman is completely shocking to her, but also the way people respond to her ways as a western woman is equally shocking. Like all culture shock, it is something which is not amusing when you are experiencing it, but the retelling of it to an outsider takes on an unintentional comedic aspect.

It is this combination of intriguing and emotional storytelling capturing a sense of unease and constant danger met with clever wit and humour that does not feel inappropriate which makes Whiskey Tango Foxtrot such a success. When you find something in the film amusing and are able to laugh at it, it does not feel as though you are not taking a serious situation lightly. The things which are humorous are naturally so, but nothing takes away from the severity of war and the danger that the press on the ground put themselves through for a story.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is Tina Fey's best film role to date. As Kim Baker, she maintains her witty and clever demeanour that she has become so well known for and much of her comedic dialogue is noticeably Fey-esque. However, unlike many actors so well known for comedy that take on a dramatic role and have the audience feeling as though they are about to make a joke even in the most serious of moments, Fey slides into the dramatic scenes with utter ease and is completely natural. She truly shines as Kim Baker and becomes a character who is enjoyable to watch as well as relatable and empathetic.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is a fresh take on the war film with a great deal of unique personality. It does not compromise the severity of war and the risks and dangers to those so close to combat, but remains graceful in it's witty and clever execution.



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