Directed by: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa
Written by: Robert Carlock (screenplay), Kim Barker (based on the book "The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan" by)
Produced by: Lorne Michaels, Tina Fey, Ian Bryce
Other cast: Tina Fey, Martin Freeman
Release date: March 4, 2016
Genre: Biography, Comedy, Drama
Running time: 1h 52min
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is a 2016 American biographical war comedy-drama film directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, and written by Robert Carlock, based on the memoir The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan by Kim Baker. Tina Fey stars in this wickedly entertaining comedy about finding yourself in the most unlikely of places. Stuck in a rut, reporter Kim Baker (Fey) decides to shake things up by leaving her desk job in New York and taking a dangerous assignment in Afghanistan. Far from home and completely out of her comfort zone, a culture-shocked Kim befriends an adventurous reporter Tanya Vanderpoel (Margot Robbie), a stern Colonel (Billy Bob Thornton), and a charming photojournalist (Martin Freeman) to help her navigate this crazy new world. Amidst the chaos, Kim discovers her true strength as she risks it all to find the next big story.
Dissatisfied with the state of her career covering low-profile stories, television journalist Kim Barker (Tina Fey) agrees to take a short assignment as a war correspondent in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom, to the disappointment of her boyfriend Chris (Josh Charles), who also spends a lot of time traveling. Assigned low-budget living quarters with other international journalists, she begins friendships with noted BBC correspondent Tanya Vanderpoel (Margot Robbie) and openly lecherous Scottish freelance photographer Iain MacKelpie (Martin Freeman). After a period of adjustment aided by her Afghan “fixer” Fahim Ahmadzai (Christopher Abbott), she begins taking well to the assignment, eliciting frank remarks on camera from soldiers questioning the value of their assignment there, and putting herself in harm’s way to capture combat incidents on video. American Marines commander General (previously Colonel) Hollanek (Billy Bob Thornton) takes a dim view of her, as an inexperienced nuisance.
Despite the danger, Kim stays in Afghanistan for months, then years beyond her original assignment. She catches Chris unprepared with a middle-of-the-night video call, and finds him with another woman, ending their relationship. Against her better judgment, she begins a sexual relationship with Iain, which over time also develops into a more personal one. Although her status as a woman presents challenges in a society which places restrictive roles on women, she also uses it to her advantage, gaining access to women in a village who explain that they’ve been sabotaging the US-built well because they welcome the daily walk to the river away from the men, and recklessly carrying a camera under a burqa to record a religious demonstration. She also walks a tightrope, taking advantage of the thinly-veiled sexual interest of Afghan Attorney General Ali Massoud Sadiq (Alfred Molina) to use him as a source. Fahim – who treated opium addicts before the war – cautions her, pointing out that danger can be like a drug.
Despite their mutual friendliness, Kim remains in competition with other journalists for stories and for resources from their employers back home. Kim flies to New York to argue for more support from her network’s new boss, only to discover that Tanya is slated to take over from her. Meanwhile, Iain is kidnapped for ransom while traveling cross-country to cover a developing story that Kim had been working on. Kim returns “home” to Afghanistan, where she blackmails her “special friend”, Ali, for information about Iain’s whereabouts, and impresses upon Hollanek the political value to him of rescuing Iain. The mission – accompanied by Kim’s cameraman – is a success, both militarily and journalistically. However, shortly after Iain’s rescue Kim becomes disillusioned, with her tentative relationship as well as her station. She then bids farewell to her colleagues and to Fahim, and returns to the U.S. to stay.
After returning, she looks up a Marine (Evan Jonigkeit) who was transferred, apparently because of his on-camera comments to her, and subsequently lost both of his legs to an IED. She tries to apologize for the consequences of her actions, but he refuses to let her take the blame. She moves on to an on-camera desk job, where she later finds herself interviewing Iain, who is going to be in New York soon as part of a tour for his new book, and who invites her to meet him for a coffee.
Trivia & Goofs
- In a February 2016 interview with NPR, Kim Barker, who wrote “The Taliban Shuffle”, the book that was the basis for this movie, said Tina Fey first became interested in the memoir when Michi Kakutani reviewed the book for the New York Times. Kakutani said Barker “depicts herself as a sort of Tina Fey character.”
- The words “whiskey,” “tango,” and “foxtrot” stand for the letters W, T, and F in the international NATO Phonetic Alphabet, a military and law-enforcement system for clearly spelling out words and phrases during radio and other audio transmissions. In combination, the initials “WTF” are an early 21st Century abbreviation standing for “What the Fuck?” It has also become a popular title for episodes of network television shows that are otherwise prevented by their networks’ standards and practices departments from the outright use of the word “fuck”; TV shows including The Good Wife, NCIS, Jake 2.0, and Scandal have all titled episodes “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot”.
Reviews & Reception
Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a rating of 68%, based on 164 reviews, with an average rating of 6.2/10. The site’s critical consensus states, “While WTF is far from FUBAR, Tina Fey and Martin Freeman are just barely enough to overcome the picture’s glib predictability and limited worldview.” Metacritic gives the film a weighted average score of 57/100, based on reviews from 44 critics, indicating “mixed or average reviews”. Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of “B” on an A+ to F scale.
On March 1 the world premiere of Whiskey Tango Foxtrot occurred in New York. Margot show up at the premiere, looking stunning in a jumpsuit by Valentino.
Margot didn’t promote Whiskey Tanngo Foxtrot as much, however she made two TV appearances. One in Febrary 8 and another in March 1.
|• “BFFs” Featurette|