Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

(MA15+) Tina Fey, Margot Robbie, Billy Bob Thornton

Kim Baker’s (Tina Fey) life has become purposeless and lacking any inspiration. She works for a major news outlet, but has been relegated to writing puff pieces. Her relationship with her boyfriend has moved into the realm of the mediocre and she spends her evenings riding a stationary bicycle at the gym. Everything seems to be stagnating for Kim until she is offered the opportunity to be a war correspondent in Afghanistan. It is outside of her comfort zone, but she sees it as an opportunity to get out of the drudgery of life. After arriving in Kabul, she begins to wonder about the wisdom in her decision with war-torn Afghanistan being so culturally divergent from her life in New York City. Kim has to decide whether to leave before she even gets started or to move forward on this portion of her journey and give this new life a try. Throughout her first encounters on the field, she begins to get a taste of the challenges and rewards of being a foreign correspondent in a war zone. After some time in Afghanistan, Kim begins to grow into her role and sees how she can influence the military, the news teams and even the people of this Muslim nation. But she must decide if the drive for professional success is leading her to the best decisions with her life.

 

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot sits comfortably in the “dramedy” category, even though the marketing would lead audiences to believe that it is merely a dark comedy. This is a warning to all: don’t go in expecting belly laughs. Instead, what you’ll get are short bursts of laughter in between intense wartime moments and the promiscuous lifestyle of the foreign correspondent in Afghanistan. Author Kim Barker (Her surname was slightly changed for the sake of the script) provides a fine balance of comedic situations amid the horrors of war. It is understandable why Tina Fey and her production team jumped at the opportunity to take Kim’s story to cinemas.

The message of this battlefield adventure from directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (Focus) seems to be that in amongst the horrors of war, humour can be the salve to minimise the pain of the overall experience. In determining this balance of reality and comedy, this production has drawn in exceptional talent in front of the camera. Fey leads the way, with Billy Bob Thornton (Fargo TV series), Martin Freeman (um, Fargo TV series) and Australian rising superstar Margot Robbie (Focus) delivering strong performances as key support characters. But they don’t steal the scene from Fey. The only actor that gets close to taking the film out of the hands of seasoned comedian Fey is the relative unknown, Christopher Abbott (A Most Violent Year). Playing her interpreter and protector, Fahim, Abbott’s subtle and quiet presence proves to be the primary conscience of the whole film.

Even with all of the talent, the key difficulty in watching Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is determining what is the most repulsive within the biographical sketch: the images of combat, the treatment of the Afghan people by the remnants of the Taliban, or the deplorable lifestyle choices of the foreign correspondents.

Ultimately, it is hard to get past the extreme adult nature of the film which does bring down its overall appeal.

What are some of the bigger questions to consider from this film?

What do you do with your life when it seems to be boring, purposeless and lacking satisfaction? Is the answer to go off and join the circus, change jobs, or like Kim Barker, go off and be a foreign correspondent in Afghanistan? Any one of these might be the answer to the dilemma, but how do you know? In the writings of King Solomon in the book of Proverbs, he states “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” In the realm of decision-making, there can be no greater source for answers than the  Lord of everything. God can direct your path, if you allow him to do so.

  1. What does the God have to say about my job? (Ecclesiastes 2:24, 2 Thessalonians 3:10)
  2. Why does war exist? (Genesis 3)
  3. Does God care about my life? (Matthew 6: 8, 26)

Russell Matthews works for City Bible Forum Sydney and is a film blogger

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