- Category: Entertainment
- Published Friday, March 4, 2016
- CTV News
WHISKEY TANGO FOXTROT: 3 ½ STARS
Kim Baker (Tina Fey playing the real life Kim Barker) needed to turn her life upside down.
"I wanted out of my job," she says in the new black comedy "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot." "I wanted out of my mildly depressive boyfriend. I wanted to blow everything up." And blow everything up she did… as bombs blew up around her.
When we first meet Baker she's a New York City based cable-news journalist tiring of "writing copy for pretty people." Eager for a change, both personally and professionally, she agrees to a three-month stint as a war correspondent in Kabul, Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom.
The "Ka-bubble," the alcohol-fuelled world populated by expatriate journos and media types, soon seduces her and she becomes addicted to the rush of living and working in a war zone. Her three-month assignment stretches to four years as she begins a relationship with a charming Scottish photographer (Martin Freeman) and chases that elusive one big story.
Question is, when will she go home? Answer: When it all starts to feel normal.
"Whiskey Tango Foxtrot" breathes the same satiric air as "M*A*S*H" and "Catch 22," but never rises to the level of social commentary attained in either of those films. There are as many jokes about Baker's appearance—she is, apparently "Kabul Cute"—as there are about the war. It sidesteps any direct political stance.
Instead it's simply content to make the point that outsiders will never have a bead on how to fix the problems in this part of the world. "This war is like [making love to] a gorilla," says US Marine Corps Col. Hollanek (Billy Bob Thornton). "You keep on going until the gorilla wants to stop." It's not a revolutionary idea but it is brought to vivid life as seen through Barker's eyes.
The film is being billed as a comedy but it's not always laugh-out-loud-funny. The jokes are styled to add to the atmosphere—Kabul international Airport, for instance, is referred to as K.I.A., which is also an acronym for "Killed In Action."—which sits squarely in Tina Fey's wheelhouse. She plays Baker as a mostly bemused—and frequently hung over—presence, able to keep the funny bits believable while bringing enough emotional heft to sell the serious parts.
"Whiskey Foxtrot Tango" is kind of like "Animal House" with warlords, or maybe, "Fear and Loathing in Afghanistan." When it is firing on all cylinders, it hits its satirical mark—"Hearts and minds," says one soldier, "the two best places to shoot somebody."—but spends most of its running time elsewhere on Barker's personal journey.