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Whiskey Tango Foxtrot - The Riles Review
I’ve never really watched much of what Tina Fey does. I wasn’t a huge fan of 30 Rock and her movies never really appealed either. But her SNL stuff was always golden, especially the Bush Twins bits. But I was definitely interested in Whiskey Tango Foxtrot from the go, and it is so much more than just a clever code.
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is the true story of Kim Baker, who looks for a bit of excitement in her life by becoming a war correspondent in Afghanistan in 2003.
WTF is probably one of my favourite war movies since Three Kings. The film starts really strong and sets the tone perfectly. Your whole first act seems to happen somewhere between five and ten minutes. It moves along so quickly that it can really graze over a lot of your characters. Kim’s boyfriend in New York is just a drop in the bucket, and could even be ignored entirely it’s that slimly mentioned. The film does try to humanise the Afghans and some of the soldiers you meet, but just like the boyfriend, it takes up a fraction of the movie.
But the pacing is part of what makes it such a good film to watch. WTF is also a pretty strong feminist movie as well, and it’s a fairly subtle one too. It says a lot and does so in truly realistic, believable actions. It deals with not only how Kim is engaged with by other Americans, but also the way she interacts with locals, and particularly how she is treated by Afghan government figure Ali Sadiq (Alfred Molina). There’s sexual harassment and discrimination aplenty, and it makes for some shocking scenes. And because it’s all so rapid fire, Tina Fey pretty much flies through the movie as she kicks everyone in the dick (figuratively, unfortunately) and shows everyone who’s boss. It all feels like it happens so fast, but most of what you’re seeing can be really dense so it’s just as rewarding.
If you were looking for a massive anti-war message however, this doesn’t really have one. The war is never explained, and even though the fighting is never justified or praised in a particular way, it’s never really condemned either. It sort of just puts you in Afghanistan, which really helps the characters in the film too. Because you don’t have rough sketches of people walking around the film for 112 minutes spouting anti or pro war messages, you do get the sense that they’re real people. They aren’t poking the audience with the dumb stick the whole time. It is a very American movie though. I guess this is partly because so little time is spent giving you an understanding of the war in Afghanistan, the only side you’re introduced to is the American side, so it doesn’t make for a very well rounded discussion, which I understand will hurt the movie for some. For me, I think that the movie was already layering a lot of subtext about women in the workplace, that if it tried to include even more preaching the final film would be completely different, and probably a lot less funny.
Part of what makes the film so funny is the cast. Tina Fey is golden, and she fits the character perfectly. Everything she does is either comedic or dramatic gold. Martin Freeman is a lot of fun too and he delivers a character that is just as layered as Kim Baker. The supporting cast are all just as good, and the only real crime is how little you see Billy Bob Thornton. His General Hollanek is the funniest character, and he is sorely underutilised. Another gem was Steve Peacocke. He was hilarious when you saw him, and was obviously working an angle of humour that was two or three levels above everyone else.
Wrapping it up...
All in all, it isn’t the most profound war movie ever made, but it is one of the most fun. American Sniper had some stronger subtext than this, if you choose to ignore all the gun lobby crap. But when they set out to make WTF I don’t think the intention was to turn heads about the Afghanistan War, but they have made a clever, strange movie and I can’t get enough of it. For all its flaws, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot stands above it all and proves to be a great, entertaining film.
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot - 8.5/10