Considering my longstanding affection for Tina Fey and the fact that I am a lady journalist who once dreamed of being a foreign correspondent, it would be deeply silly to pretend to be the stony-browed face of impartial judgment when it comes to Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, starring Fey (she also produced!) as a war correspondent in Afghanistan. I am clearly its focus group; pleased to meet you.
Henceforth referred to by its initials, WTF is based on The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the memoir from real-life war correspondent Kim Barker. In what I hope is a deviation from Barker's story, movie-Kim is sent to Afghanistan when her network needs embed volunteers, and seeks out the childless and unmarried first. Behind enemy lines, she finds—after some initial obligatory bumbling around—that she is actually really fucking good at filming explosions and getting good quotes.
She also gets drunk with fellow war correspondent Margot Robbie and is shown, you know, ACTUALLY WORKING ON HER STORIES, something that movies about reporters frequently ignore, making the lives of journalists appear infinitely more glamorous than they actually are. You know where this is going: Kim finds talking to strangers in a war zone and only washing her bangs is preferable to the life she left behind with Josh Charles, boring ex. Also, Billy Bob Thornton is there. And Charlie from Girls. And Martin Freeman, war photographer.
WTF is well-cast, is what I'm saying, which is key for a film that seems unable to decide if it is a wacky fish-out-of-water comedy, or a serious tale of war, or an unlikely romance, or, IDK, an episode of This American Life? SURE.
It's uneven. But what's utterly convincing is that somehow, this good-but-not-great movie has accurately captured that particular moment when a reporter discovers the ineffable joy of chasing a high-stakes story for the first time. It's something that I suspect fellow Tina Fey-appreciating journalists will delight in. Everyone else, you're on your own.