Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (2016)

(Netflix Streaming, November 2016) There’s something tailor-made for Tina Fey in Whiskey Tango Foxtrot’s brainy-and-attractive protagonist, a bored lifestyle writer who decides to take up war journalism in Afghanistan at the height of the American intervention over there. Before long, the pace of the job has transformed her into an adrenaline junkie, breaking off her relationship back home and leading her to taking more and more risks. This dramatic arc, coupled with the built-in absurdity of life in war-torn Afghanistan, makes for a first half that’s decently comic, renewing with the geo-sardonicism American comedy subgenre that reached its peak in 2005–2010. Fey is great as her character gradually evolves from bemused fish-out-of-water to grizzled war journalism veteran, and as the film keeps up the more comic aspect of its story. Margot Robbie also makes an impression as a mentor/rival of sorts, while Martin Freeman takes on a less sympathetic turn than usual. It’s very loosely based on true events, but the film wisely sticks to fiction more than reality when comes the time to deliver entertainment. Still, its last half gets progressively less amusing, to the point of dealing with kidnappings, deaths, maiming, betrayals and absolution. While the dramatic arc progression is understandable, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot doesn’t end on the same kind of high notes on which it begins, taking away much of its impact. Too bad, because in many ways this is a good showcase for Fey’s brand of comedy, and a welcome reminder of the impact of the American intervention in Afghanistan—see it with the equally imperfect Rock the Kasbah for another perspective.

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