“It’s the same Tina Fey we all know and love, just in a different environment”
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is a charming, comedic, and genuine depiction of the world of war reporting. While you may be confused as to why Tina Fey plays the leading lady of a war drama, have no fear: she is the same awkward, hilarious, and classically endearing Tina Fey that we all know and love, she’s just bumbling around in a much different environment.
The film follows reporter Kim Baker (Tina Fey) as she is sent to cover the war in Afghanistan in 2003. Baker, who is accustomed to the New York City life, is very out of her element as she tries to interview marines, capture combat footage, befriend Afghanistan officials, and adjust to her new “temporary” life in Afghanistan. During her three years in Afghanistan, Baker befriends competitive and experienced reporter Tanya Vanderpoel (Margot Robbie), Scottish freelance photographer Iain MacKelpie, and her driver/translator Fahim Ahmadzai (Christopher Abbott).
The film is not specifically categorized as a clear-cut comedy but it does a fantastic job at keeping its audience laughing throughout. Whether you are laughing at Tina Fey—such as during the scene when she is scolded by a marine for being clueless enough to bring a neon orange backpack to a war zone—or you are laughing with her—like when she refers to Afghan women draped in burqas as “beautiful, mysterious, Ikea bags”—the film will enthrall you with its comedy.
The title of the film is something I found particularly interesting. While watching, I kept waiting for the title to be mentioned in some type of way, but the words “whiskey tango foxtrot” were never actually uttered. There were definitely several scenes of heavy drinking and wild dancing, as well as the scene when Baker films the Afghan attorney general dancing in the street, but nothing that specifically alluded to the title. Upon further investigation, I discovered that “whiskey,” “tango,” and “foxtrot” all simply mean words used in communication to represent the letters W, T, and F, respectively. Yes, the film’s title literally is referring to the acronym WTF. Indeed, Kim Baker’s time in Afghanistan can definitely be summed up by this popular expletive, and while that alone is clever, the title does also dually serve to reference the drinking and dancing that play fairly important roles in the plot of the film as well.
Afghanistan culture is prevalent throughout the film, as one would expect. The film wastes no time and almost immediately exposes you to Kim’s obvious culture shock. When Kim arrives at the Afghanistan airport, her scarf is blown from her head and she is immediately called a “shameless whore” by an Afghan woman near her. In one of the final scenes of the film, Kim is not allowed to give Fahim a hug goodbye and instead she has to settle for a lingering hand-touch as he gives her her suitcase. Kim is almost always in danger as well, no matter what she does, simply because of the environment she is in. She struggles to navigate the difficulties of being a woman in a society where women are extremely restricted.
The music of the film is very thoughtful and deliberate. During the scene in which the marines find Iain (minimal details here as to avoid any spoilers), Harry Nilsson’s powerful ballad “Without You” dominates an otherwise very intense situation and gives it a lighter, more whimsical feel. The last song of the film, “Green Gloves” by The National, is actually a perfect summary of the film as a whole. Two of the song’s stanzas sing, “Falling out of touch with all / My friends are somewhere, getting wasted / Hope they’re staying glued together / I have arms for them / Take another sip of them / It floats around and takes me over / Like a little drop of ink / In a glass of water.” This song depicts the film to a tee, describing Kim Baker’s experience of meeting new people in an environment that, indeed, takes her over.
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is not the film that will change your life; however, it is the film that will urge you to think about changing your life. It is the film that will make you curious enough to wonder, “If I were thrust out of my comfort zone, how would it transform me?”