After running wildly out of my comfort zone with Sisters, the Tina Fey I know and love is back in Whiskey Foxtrot Tango. Wait, no. Foxtrot Tango Whiskey… WTF!? Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.
Based on Kim Barker’s book, The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot follows Barker’s time reporting on these two war fronts. Don’t worry, it’s not one of those, “ugh, I wish they had gone loosely inspired by, as opposed to based on” adaptations, and it actually plays out with the typical cinematic rising action, resolutions, and a lead character that has a satisfying arc and everything. What else should I have expected from a movie that plays Harry Nilsson’s “Without You” over Marines storming an enemy stronghold?
Goodness some of these song choices were weird…
When it comes down to it, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot defied my expectations. It’s partly my fault for not being aware of the truth it is based on, but you have to admit that the trailer does allow for the belief that we will be getting something a little different. Like a heightened Piper Chapman in Orange is the New Black, just with less nudity and more Afghanistan. But instead of crazy physical comedy and conversation breaks for laughter as Fey flops wildly around as an out of water fish, we get something a little calmer and realistic. She still does things like stop a convoy to pee on the side of a road that could be full of buried explosives, but I get it. When you gotta go, you gotta go.
God I really hope this moment happened. And a bunch of other moments as well. I don’t know what to believe, really, and I would read the memoir to see where reality meets fiction, but the truth is I don’t want to know. I have no doubt that Alfred Molina’s Ali Massoud Sadiq is made up for the sake of comedy because he fits even less in this film than Barker fits in the Middle East. But there are other bits that would seriously weaken my opinion of this movie just by knowing that they were a fabrication. I want to believe Baker had touching friendships with a Marine General and her press connection in this foreign land (Barker’s relationship with Christopher Abbott’s Fahim Ahmadzai is the heart and soul of this movie). And I want to believe it was all tied up nicely with a bow. Is this likely? Debateable. But I don’t need to know. This isn’t American Sniper; I’m fine with the elements of fiction.
Whatever the level of truth, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is a fun and heartfelt comedy about war journalists. It has ups, it has downs, and it has Tina Fey. That’s all I need.