By Christian DiMartino
I went into Whiskey Tango Foxtrot a bit skeptical. I love Tina Fey, and I’ve enjoyed the directorial work of Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (I Love You, Philip Morris, Crazy Stupid Love). But the reviews were mixed, and Fey’s last film, Sisters (which also has roughly a 60% on Rotten Tomatoes) was pretty bad. My verdict: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is a good, but uneven movie.
Fey gives one of her best performances yet as Kim Baker, a journalist who is sent over to Afghanistan to cover the war on terror, and what not. There isn’t really much in the way of story, really. It mostly just focuses on the people she has run-ins with, such as her boyfriend back in New York (Josh Charles), another fellow journalist/ possible rival (Margot Robbie, reteaming with the directing duo from last year’s Focus), a foul-m0uthed Scottsman (Martin Freeman), a General (Billy Bob Thornton), and a political figure (Alfred Molina), not to mention soldiers that she interviews.
The first act of Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (which, if you didn’t notice, is WTF), offers plenty of fun. There’s funny moments to be had here for sure, and its richly entertaining. But then things take a different turn in the final act, in which the film takes a dramatic turn. I should have expected such a thing, considering, well, this is a film about war. But I guess I was just so consumed by that first hour that when the second one arrived, it kind of threw me for a loop.
The second hour is still solid, but it kind of loses steam, and it doesn’t quite match up with the previous one. I also didn’t fully buy into the romance here (which I won’t go into, to avoid spoilers). But even when the film doesn’t quite work, the performances always do.
As a long devoted Fey fan, it was kind of nice to see her spread her wings a little here. Her performance has just the right balance of comedy and drama. Considering the fact that I don’t think I’ve seen her show a dramatic side before, I welcomed it with open arms. I’m kind of curious to see what else she has in store. The supporting turns from Robbie, Freeman, Molina, and Thornton (we don’t really see a whole lot from Charles) are strong and damn near perfectly casted.
Ficarra and Requa have tried to take their own stab at the Robert Altman classic M.A.S.H. Have they done it? Eh, not quite. But Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is still a pretty good movie. Its reach sort of exceeds its grasp, but you kind of have to admire the reach.