Starring: Tina Fey, Martin Freeman, Margot Robbie
Director: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa
Running Time: 112 mins
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is an American film about a journalist, bored with her life behind a desk in the US, who is sent to report in Afghanistan in the early 2000s.
The trailers and the cast would suggest this is a run-of-the-mill Tina Fey comedy, but the truth is that this doesn’t stick to that formula. As a comedy, it’s not great, and there aren’t many big laughs, whilst the story is very messy for the majority of the first hour or so. However, this film does manage to inject a surprising degree of drama and emotion to make Whiskey Tango Foxtrot an unexpectedly compelling watch.
Before I get into that, however, I want to start with this film’s flaws. Although I ultimately found it an entertaining and engaging film, the first two-thirds are heavily laden with issues, the biggest of which is the comedy. Although you see in the final act that this isn’t meant to be a laugh out loud comedy, the film doesn’t do enough to establish that in the beginning, and that means that it comes across as a pretty average comedy affair.
The film is far more joke-heavy in the first hour, many of which don’t land at all, and although it’s got a fun atmosphere as we see this reporter getting thrown in at the deep end in Afghanistan, I was definitely not laughing enough to note this as a good comedy, so if you’re coming looking only for laughs, this may not be such a satisfying watch.
Also, the narrative is very muddled in the first two acts. There is a central story about a woman trying to get out of her boring old life and experience this new world she’s thrown into, but that never comes across strongly enough for the majority of the film. Along with that, you’ve got loads of other story lines being thrown about, and it all feels very disjointed when the film jumps between different plot elements.
The first two acts of this film are average at best, and if it ended before the final act, I’d give this round about 6.6. However, what saves Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, and makes the disappointing first hour worth it, is the surprisingly brilliant final act.
The main reason for this is that the film quite simply stops trying to be funny, and focusses its efforts on a gripping and often emotionally impressive story. I won’t spoil it, but in comparison to the muddled and unfunny first hour, the final act takes a direct focus on the implications of war correspondents’ presence in foreign countries, on both the locals and their own lives, whilst also not trying to make jokes, and just give an intriguing and dramatic finale to the film.
It’s not a horribly dour end to the film, and Tina Fey and Martin Freeman do a lot to make it a continually entertaining watch, as well as showing some great dramatic chops, which we’ve not seen from Fey before, but once you recognise that it’s telling a more serious and intelligent story than the jokey stuff you get at the beginning, it becomes a really captivating watch, and that’s why I’m giving Whiskey Tango Foxtrot a 7.3.