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Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (9/10)

by Tony Medley

Runtime 111 minutes.

Not for children.

This is one of the better war/foreign correspondent movies one will see, certainly the best film I’ve seen so far this year. Produced by SNL’s Lorne Michaels and Tina Fey (with Ian Bryce), directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa with a screenplay by Robert Carlock based on Kim Barker’s book The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and starring Fey as Kim Baker, it reveals that you can’t take what you see to the bank because it’s “based on a true story,” which generally means that there are two places named Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Barker’s name was changed and her occupation was also changed from print to cable news on camera correspondent. One of the parts of the film that is undoubtedly true is that it shows a woman living in a world where women are subjugated and it shows the free-wheeling life of a free-spirited woman in a Muslim war zone. Fey gives another fine performance. She is an under-rated actress. Sharing the fun is fellow correspondent Tanya Vanderpoel (Margot Robbie, in a terrific performance) who defines “free-wheeling.”

But who cares what’s true and what’s not true? Baker is a writer at a new channel who “volunteers” to cover the war in Afghanistan in 2002. What follows is a story that probably shows the correspondent in a lot more danger than actually happened or that the marines, headed by Colonel Walter Hollaner (Billy bob Thornton), probably wouldn’t have allowed even an imbedded correspondent to undertake such dangerous missions or let them get away with what Baker gets away with.

But Clark Gable was shown doing lots of stuff that would boggle credulity in Somewhere I’ll Find You (1942) but that didn’t keep it from being an entertaining movie.

The battle scenes are very well done as is the recreation of Afghanistan, which was filmed around Albuquerque, NM. The only character that didn’t ring true to me was Ali Massoud Sadiq (well played by Alfred Molina) who is a powerful political figure in Kabul, and develops a crush on Kim. His actions seem totally out of character. But this is a movie.

The writers and directors deftly mix comedy with adventure and romance to make this an extremely well-rounded film.