Movie Review: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
By Matthew Huntley
March 8, 2016
Most of us will go through life without ever living in a war zone. Our encounters with war will always be filtered through the media and therefore we’ll never fully comprehend its ramifications, no matter how accurately the media represents them. And because only the most dramatic and sensational effects of war tend to get reported by the news or recreated by the arts, we develop expectations for what war “should” be like and automatically assume that when it comes to conflict, there’s always something exciting happening.
But Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (code for “WTF”) argues this isn’t always (or perhaps even commonly) the case. The film suggests that living in a war zone can be just as boring, uneventful and predictable as living in a peaceful territory, and that people who experience war day in and day out have other things on their mind besides the on-going attacks, bombings and gunfire, which they’ve simply come to accept as normal. And if the current conflict is that inconsequential to the people experiencing it, you can imagine there isn’t much for a war reporter to relay back to her audience.
That’s that lethargic state Kim Baker (Tina Fey) finds herself in after spending three years in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In 2003, she’s working a mundane job as a copy editor for a New York City news organization when her editor calls her and the other “unmarried, childless” employees into a meeting and tells them one of the ways they can keep their jobs is to go to Kabul, Afghanistan and report on the war. To Kim, this isn’t the most tempting of options, but it offers her a much-needed break from the ordinary. And just like that, she calls up her boyfriend (Josh Charles) and tells him she’s headed to Afghanistan.
But shortly after Kim arrives, she’s on the verge of tears because she thinks she’s made a big mistake, grappling with the idea of living the next three months on a United States military base, which has spotty Internet; gawking men who are obsessed with sex; and only a small dorm room Kim can call her own, unless you also count Nic (Stephen Peacocke), her sexy Australian bodyguard, and Fahim (Christopher Abbott), a local Afghan who works as her English-Arabic translator.
Kim’s only female companion is Tanya (Margot Robbie), a buxom British reporter who says that in Afghanistan, Kim is considered a “Nine, on the verge of a 10” as far as her “attractive” level is concerned, whereas in New York she was merely a seven (Kim responds, “So that would make you, what, a 15?!”). Still, Tanya’s report on a recent attack impresses Kim and so she sets out to find a story just as compelling. She rides along with a Marine caravan led by the no-nonsense General Hollanek (Billy Bob Thornton) but the soldiers she interviews, like Specialist Coughlin (Evan Jonigkeit), tell her things that she, not to mention her viewers, likely already knows: the war in Afghanistan has become the “Forgotten War,” with a capital “F” and a capital “W”. It’s taken a back seat to the more popular war in Iraq (remember, this is 2003).