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Whiskey Tango Foxtrot - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
Directing: B
Acting: B+
Writing: B
Cinematography: B
Editing: B+

I'm not quite sure what to call this movie -- a comedy? A war movie? Those are the two genres listed on its imdb page, anyway: "Comedy" and "War." It's also a romance. I hesitate to call it a romantic comedy, except that it's clearly intended as a comedy and contains a romance. One wonders if studio heads had a meeting and declared a romance was needed. But this is based on a true story, and maybe journalist Kim Barker really did meet this charming guy in Afghanistan who is here played by Martin Freeman. Who knows? I didn't read the book.

All I can speak to is how the movie plays, which is a little uneven. But, undeniably entertaining too. Probably the most successfully mature, if not necessarily the best, film Tina Fey has starred in. She plays Kim Barker, a woman dissatisfied with her static desk job as a journalist, who accepts an assignment in Afghanistan for little more reason than to make her life more interesting.

She doesn't make the most compelling character, honestly; at least not on paper. On film, she gets a nice injection of Tina Fey-ness, and that makes her more compelling. It's fun to watch Fey portray someone like this. It's certainly a departure for her, and she does it well. There actually isn't a huge amount of laughs in this movie, which tends to happen when attempting to blend genres not usually combined. But the laughs that do happen are typically thanks to Fey. She didn't do any writing on this one (that would be Robert Carlock, here working on his first feature film script; he previously wrote on the TV shows Saturday Night Live, 30 Rock and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), but there's something to her peculiar delivery.

There is something to love about this movie, though: not just that it has a female lead, but it has a female hero -- a flawed human being but still someone who actually saves a man in peril, instead of the other way around. That turn of the plot and how it unfolds may be a tad too Hollywood-slick for a movie clearly going for grittiness, but it's still always nice to see those tables turned. What's more, second billing goes to the beautiful Margot Robbie, who plays another war correspondent in the field, who strikes up a friendship with Kim Barker. This is also a relationship not typically seen on screen. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot deserves to be seen for these reasons alone.

Supporting characters include Billy Bob Thornton as General Hollanek, who leads the outfit Kim is reporting on; Christopher Abbott as Fahim Ahmadzai, Barker's escort; and Alfred Molina as Ali Massed Sadiq, the high-level Afghan government official with a bit of a crush on Barker. This particular relationship borders on creepy and is played for laughs, which doesn't always work.

This movie is getting decidedly mixed reviews, and there are legitimate criticisms of it. Alfred Molina and Christopher Abbott being non-Afghan actors is the least of its problems. It's tonally inconsistent, and seems unable to decide if it's a lighthearted comedy or a war drama. But it does have this going for it: it's different. And regardless of what tone it's got at any given time, this movie is never, ever dull. It's not deeply affecting, and perhaps it should be, but it's always fun to watch.

Tina Fey brings a specific, if uneven, comic sensibility to WHISKEY TANGO FOXTROT.

Overall: B
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