Whiskey Tango Foxtrot Reviewed
Make no mistake: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is not a comedy, despite the way it's being advertised. The trailer does its best to compile all of the funny moments from the movie. And while there are some laughs, as the story progresses they become fewer and far between. Fey is less like her role in Sisters and more like her role in Admission, which featured a similar advertising campaign in contrast to its poignant story. Even the title Whiskey Tango Foxtrot probably got a few chuckles from people looking at the posters, but I would bet dollars to doughnuts that the title was shoved down the storytellers’ throat by the studio, because it does not reflect the story.
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot suffers from the same problems the war in Afghanistan does; it lacks definition. For contrast, World War II movies, (as well as the actual war) feature a clear villain and objective. In this movie about Afghanistan, one of the army’s biggest conflicts involves the town’s well. The story lacks any clear direction, unsure whether it is trying to make a commentary on feminist issues abroad, war time ethics, or the life of a soldier overseas. Because the nature of the conflict is so complicated, the movie tries to cover it all--an impossible task.
While Baker is in an actual war-zone there is very little fighting to see, despite her war coverage being the best part of the movie. But if it’s not covering the troops on the ground then the movie gets equal traction covering the relationships Baker builds. That’s why her supporting cast, especially the work of Alfred Molina and Billy Bob Thorton, is so important. The way Tina Fey plays off these two actors particularly highlights her strength as a leading lady.
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot also has a tinge of romantic comedy, which always feels out of place to me in recent iterations of the war movie. While I’ve heard great a philosopher say, “We found love in a hopeless place,” the romantic angles tend to put a halt to any momentum the narrative was building towards, especially in the latter half of the movie. However, it would be hard to separate the romantic storyline out, as it does help drive the plot and character development along. I wish there was a better way to progress the story, but since the movie is based on actual events it may have been tough to leave it out.
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot seems to muddle the lines between comedic culture shock, the need for romantic fulfillment, and journeys of professional and personal self-discovery. But just because everything blends together in real life doesn’t mean it should take place that way on screen. Without a clear focus on any of the many issues presented, the audience may walk out of the theater unsure how to describe (or process) what they saw, leaving many wondering WTF. B-