Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is a strange movie. The majority of the trailers for the film have it being billed as a comedy. The title itself even reinforces that idea. And if anyone can pull off humor in the middle of a warzone, it’s Tina Fey. What I wasn’t expecting is the more serious tone the film takes with war and the effects it has on a person. It’s a weird mixture of pieces that unfortunately doesn’t fit together just right.
Kim Baker (Tina Fey) is your average news reporter who spends all day writing in front of a computer. After years of doing the same thing over and over, Kim grows tired of her routine and decides to take her career to the extreme and volunteers to become a war correspondent in Afghanistan right in the middle of Operation Enduring Freedom. She’s thrown directly into the flames and quickly learns the ins and outs of reporting in one of the most dangerous places around. Pretty soon gunfire and explosions are normal everyday occurrences for her and the dust and grime of Afghanistan are more of a home to her than the big city buildings of New York.
There aren’t too many laugh out loud moments in Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. Instead, we’re given slightly funny moments to break the tension in between more dramatic scenes. Initially, Tina Fey is a fish out of water in Afghanistan as she tries to figure out the various customs and rules that will keep her alive. It’s a dangerous place and the film never shies away from that. Sometimes when you’re in immediate danger the first reaction you have is to laugh. That’s what I feel the film is doing. It tries to make you laugh at the war, while at the same time informing you of the kind of toll it takes on the people involved, both soldiers and civilians. Unfortunately it doesn’t do either of the two all that well.
In its attempt to be both humorous and serious, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot struggles to know when to be either. It doesn’t go the full blown comedy route with over-the-top humor in a warzone environment, but it also doesn’t come across as completely serious. It falls somewhere in the middle as a result, and ends up being bland. Tense moments are downplayed with stale jokes or unfitting music. There are a few good laughs, but they’re more of a distraction than part of the plot.
It’s a shame too, because the film does have an interesting story to tell about how warzones become the norm for people and how that rush of adrenaline never is never truly satisfying. It touches on these elements, but I feel like it could have done a better job had it been a completely serious war drama. Tina Fey has the acting ability, which she shows in faint glimpses throughout the film.
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot left me wanting more. It’s not quite a comedy, but also not quite a drama. It’s lost somewhere in the middle and struggles to find its course. There are some scenes that work great in that context. There are many more that falter, however. Perhaps WTF really is the best way to describe how I felt watching.