It is pretty common for people to find themselves unsatisfied with their career at one time or another. In these moments, they are faced with a decision. Do they continue to soldier on unsatisfied and hope that things change, or make a drastic move to force improvement? This point in Kim Baker’s life is where we start in Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. And boy, does she make a drastic move.
Kim Baker has hit a rut in her career. She is a TV journalist with aspirations. She just can’t get past the low-profile stories she is constantly assigned. Late one night, while riding a stationary bike in the gym, she contemplates her position. She rides the same bike in the gym every night never moving forward. This bike is a metaphor for her career. She is always just in the same place and never progressing from day to day.
This is the moment when she knows she must make a change. She happens to notice another reporter on TV reporting on location overseas. She decides this is the time to make a move: going overseas as a foreign correspondent. She takes an assignment to report from Afghanistan during the conflict.
Once in country, she meets the other remote journalists and technical crew members. All of them stay in a low-budget living quarter together. While small and austere, they all party and drink regularly to compensate and to relieve the hardships. They are all frequently in dangerous situations, and their quarters are very noisy from nearby military action. The party scene helps to relieve the tensions from these unpleasant factors.
While living in the quarters, she develops friendships with a few residents and journalists. She finds a kindred spirit in the reporter Tanya (played by Margot Robbie), and a possible romantic interest with photographer Iain (played by Martin Freeman). Spending her downtime with these two, Kim gets her feet under herself and becomes more comfortable in her new surroundings.
Kim is accompanied on her shoots with her security guard Nic, her videographer “Tall Brian”, and her Afghan fixer Fahim. With these three beside her, she heads out to regular assignments at uncomfortable locations. Some locations she tapes at, she finds herself beside marines and in the middle of small battles. The officer she interacts with, Brigadier General Hollanek (played by Billy Bob Thornton), is quite agitated with her presence and naivety. Eventually, even the gruff Hollanek warms up to her and respects the value she brings.
Over time, Kim finds herself enjoying the job and winning the respect of the officer and his marines. While her relationship with her boyfriend back in the states is strained, she finds herself forming strong friendships with those in Afghanistan. During this time, she begins to find her situation becoming palatable and even exciting. She enjoys it enough that she extends her stay from a few months to years. She even learns to work with the local politicians for her stories. This truly becomes a transformative time for her and her career throughout the movie.
Based on The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan, a memoir by journalist Kim Barker, Whisky Tango Foxtrot is an interesting look into the journalist’s experience as a foreign correspondent. The audience is exposed to a bit of an inside look into the world of global conflict journalism. This is a life and world that we wouldn’t normally think twice about. Sure, we assume that there is a fear and excitement to being in an area of active conflict, but we probably stop there. We don’t think about the struggle with cultural differences or dealing with the frustrations of living in cramped, noisy quarters. Besides the locals not wanting you there, even your country’s military might find you to be an annoyance.
Pleasantly enjoyable are the performances from Tina Fey and Martin Freeman. Billy Bob Thornton was enjoyable in his limited screen time as well. The dialog is often strong and banter is witty when we get to enjoy it. Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot to love in the personality of the characters. Fahim is probably the most likable character overall. He is a reliable friend and protective, willing to go into danger to help when needed. Kim and Iain are both relatable enough overall despite some unlikable moments from them both. The other supporting characters are limited by their screen time or simply disliked by the films completion. Hollanek doesn’t have enough good moments to be memorable and Tanya is quite unpalatable in the end.
While the movie is enjoyable and definitely worth watching, I question how much it holds up on repeated viewings. There is fun to be had in the dialog and a lot to be taken from watching Kim’s experiences during her journey. Unfortunately, once you’ve experienced this journey once, there isn’t much to entice you to come back. There aren’t scenes that stick out as needing to be seen again. There aren’t interactions or experiences that are delightful enough to relive. I also think Tina Fey is better in movies she had a creative hand in. It doesn’t make it bad; it just makes Whiskey Tango Foxtrot worthy of a rental and not ownership.
Movie Itself: 2.5/5
Quite nice. The picture is beautiful and very clear throughout. The colors are very pleasant throughout. There were a few darker scenes that felt drab and murky, but I think that is more due to lighting than the transfer. Everything else looks pretty solid. While not amazing, I say this is a rather nice looking movie with a rather nice transfer.
Picture Quality: 4/5
Talk about quality options. DTS:X, DTS Headphone:X and DTS-HD Master Audio options. Pretty fantastic set of options available for this disc. In addition to that, the sound mix is superb. Being in a warzone, the movie presents us with a number of very loud scenes. Gunfire and heavy machinery sounds satisfying and powerful. The dialog, even in noisy scenes, sounds perfectly clear throughout. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot has a strong music selection in its soundtrack and it all sounds great with this mix as well.
Audio Quality: 4.5/5
Special Features and Packaging
Wow, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot comes with a really solid selection of extras. We have a few nice featurettes and some cut scenes. I’m quite satisfied with everything included in here.
All In: The Making of Whiskey Tango Foxtrot: A fun and lively behind the scenes look. Focuses mainly on the casting and setting the visuals. Visuals were a combination of the wardrobe and background.
War Reporter: The Real Kim: Featuring the author of the book the film is based on, Kim Barker, the creative minds discuss creating the film. Briefly discusses her creation of the novel, her involvement with the film, and her time in Afghanistan.
Embedding in Reality: Shows the involvement of the military in helping to offer insight to the filmmakers and keeping the setting realistic.
Wedding Party: The movie includes an Afghan wedding scene. This feature details the culture of the Afghan wedding and the efforts to present it authentically in the movie.
Laughing Matters: Focuses on the housing that the journalists live in while in Afghanistan. This housing is full of a frat house lifestyle that helps the reporters cope with living in a warzone.
Deleted Scenes: Some of this is a little enjoyable, but for the most part this stuff belonged on the cutting room floor. For pacing, I’m glad these were cut. But I do always like to view deleted scenes to get a look at what just wasn’t right for the final product.
Extended Scene: That is right. Singular. This is an extended cut of the scene at the wedding where we learn Kim’s thought process leading to her heading to Afghanistan. Interesting longer cut of the scene, but I think it was right to cut it down.
Packaging wise, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot comes in a pretty standard two disc package. We have a normal two disc amaray and a slip cover. The disappointing thing about the slip cover is that it is the same art as the cover art. The cover art is just fine. I do appreciate how they arranged Whiskey Tango Foxtrot to line up the first letters to match up with the acronym. It would just be nice if the slipcover had a different piece of art.
Don’t misunderstand me. I think Whiskey Tango Foxtrot works fine as a movie. I like Tina Fey and the supporting cast in it. I just can’t think of a reason I’d care to watch it again. It is definitely worth a one time watch, so I suggest going to Redbox or Amazon Instant and renting it. I just think the characters aren’t enjoyable enough as a whole and I think the story is predictable and not intriguing enough. The technical merits are quite good, but the content just isn’t strong enough to bear a second viewing.
Final Score: 3/5
Note: This Blu Ray was sent to us for review. This has not affected our judgement or editorial process in any way. Please contact us if you have any questions regarding this process.