Despite its seemingly satirical title, director duo Glenn Ficarra and John Requa’s latest film, “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot,” is best classified as a drama with hues of comedy. The film’s serious subject matter definitely qualifies it as a drama; it tells the true story of Kim Baker, a journalist who moves from a mundane job as a news writer to a position as a reporter in the bustling heart of Afghanistan during the early 2000s. Fuelled by a charming performance from comedienne extraordinaire Tina Fey as Baker, the film provides an interesting commentary on the state of war journalism and the price reporters pay for the “perfect” story.
The film is loosely based on the 2011 memoir “The Taliban Shuffle,” which details reporter Kim Barker’s experiences in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Initially, the film’s title is puzzling considering the more serious title of its source material. There are only a few genuinely comedic moments in the film, such as Baker’s discomforting, cringe-worthy experiences as she adapts to her new surroundings in Afghanistan. Like the book, the film focuses mainly on Baker’s main struggle, which is to produce a story that is new and fresh amid the mundane nature of the United States’ involvement in Afghanistan after 2004. Baker soon finds that she must strike a balance between producing relevant and appealing news coverage and ensuring the safety of herself and her crew. Ultimately, Baker contemplates the true price that one must pay for exciting war reporting.
The strength of this film lies in its character development. Fey’s role as Baker is a successful departure from her traditionally comedic projects. Her character arc sees her grow from a timid, abashed newcomer to a seasoned, successful war reporter. Rather than relating to Fey’s character in moments of weakness or strife, audiences connect in her moments of strength and perseverance. The plot centers on the growth of its female protagonist, detailing the obstacles in her journey, as well as the success, love and understanding that she achieves. In Baker’s case, this understanding comes in a state of contentment and an appreciation for her career. In this sense, Fey’s character is uplifting to audiences, and specifically to women.
The film also succeeds in its portrayal of Afghan culture. While the prominent Afghan characters in the film are, unfortunately, not portrayed by Afghan actors, their performances are nonetheless heartwarming. In particular, Kim’s translator and guide, Farouk (Christopher Abbott) provides Kim – and audiences alike – with interesting questions about agency and our obsession with moments of thrill or excitement.
Overall, “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” is a touching exploration of the lives of foreign correspondents that encourages audiences to appreciate the lengths to which these individuals had to go to inform us of the world’s events. That said, the film also exposes the news industry as seeking popularity and attention. It leads audiences to wonder about the stories that have gone untold because they may have been considered too boring or irrelevant by network executives. Audiences witness the often-neglected story of the storytellers and the continual impact that war and conflict has on individuals.
Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.