Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
This review first appeared in the Sunday Star-Times, 17th April 2016
Not only does it pass the Bechdel Test (which notes whether a movie’s named female characters talk to one another about something other than a man), Whiskey Tango Foxtrot also showcases strong women living in a man’s world and kicking professional (and personal) butt – and furthermore, the actresses playing them get top billing.
Tina Fey stars as Kim Baker, a news producer in New York who gets the chance to be embedded with troops as a war correspondent in Kabul, Afghanistan. The real-life Kim lived to write a very entertaining book about existing in the “Kabubble” of drinking, partying and gunfire, and the filmmakers’ adaptation of her often hilarious anecdotes makes for fascinating, sometimes exhilarating, cinema.
Well, “cinema” may be slightly too highbrow a term for this film, as it makes no pretence at being great art, but there’s no disputing it is entertainment of the highest order. The excellent cast includes Martin Freeman (The Hobbit) as a potty-mouthed Scotsman, Alfred Molina as the Attorney-General of Afghanistan, and a surprisingly wonderful return to form by Billy Bob Thornton. As Baker and her fixer, minder and cameraman scour Middle Eastern streets, villages and barren hilltops for new stories, the various parties’ exploits are sound-tracked expressly for the 40-something viewer who is probably wistful about never having lived such a life (a-ha, Radiohead and House of Pain all provide ecstatic accompaniment to the mayhem).
With an energetic script by Robert Carlock, a longtime collaborator with Fey on 30 Rock and various Saturday Night Live fare, Fey does a terrific job in her starring role up against gal-pal Margot Robbie (the Australian actress who shot to stardom in Scorsese’s Wolf of Wall Street and will soon lead the charge in Suicide Squad). Crucially, by shooting in Morocco (standing in for Afghanistan) and employing a rough-and-ready international cast, the blunt, matter-of-fact atmosphere feels like a really accurate representation of what life covering the frontline must be like. Without passing judgement on how we ended up at war in the first place, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot delivers a riveting account of how being immersed in it can change you forever.