Tina Fey’s turn as journalist Kim Baker in Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (2016) is both lighthearted and honest. Beginning in Afghanistan in 2002, the back drop of a war torn country contrasts starkly with Fey’s story line as the wearied reporter writing copy for local news in the US, who is given the opportunity to cover Afghanistan as one of the only reporters left both unmarried and without children.
Cut to a scene where one of the television network managers cites this as the reason for gathering a group of misfit reporters, which prompts one woman to burst into tears, and Fey to make a sardonic remark about it; thus highlighting the callousness and humour of the situation.
It is Fey’s subtle comments and classic Liz Lemon eye rolls (throwback to 30 Rock) that make the heavy topics of war, death and random bombings digestible, without becoming too documentary-like. Perhaps the story is helped by being adapted from the original Kim Baker’s memoir, The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Or perhaps it flows well because of the juxtaposition of war within a nation, versus the personal wars Baker and her fellow journalists grapple with as they try to capture what is going on around them. The film is surprisingly scattered with acting and comedy gold; Margot Robbie for example, plays Tanya Vanderpoel, the straight talking reporter who asks Baker upon arrival at their accommodation whether she can sleep with her body guard. The tone is immediately set that this will not just be a film about a reporter that goes into a warzone, but proof that sexual prowess and inadequacies can be made important regardless of how close you might come to death on a daily basis.
Even Billy Bob Thornton playing an army General, explains to Baker her attractive rating in Afghanistan versus the one she had back home in New York, and how she shouldn’t let its increase go to her head. Nevertheless, who is to say this isn’t what we would all focus on in our conversations with others in the thick of it, especially when faced with potential IEDs and kidnappings.
A key element in Whiskey Tango Foxtrot though, is the surprising bravery of Baker to chase after a story; a skill not recognised when we first meet her, but one that soon takes shape when she is thrust outside of her comfort zone into a world of dust roads, nightly parties and trying to interview men who refuse to address her directly because she is a woman.
It was lighter on the comedy than expected, but delved deeply enough into reality to carve out the beginnings of a story an audience can get their teeth into.