Whiskey Tango Foxtrot 

Tina Fey goes to Kabul seeking laughs.

click to enlarge Tina Fey in Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
  • Tina Fey in Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

Four years after the fall of Saigon, Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now attempted to come to terms with the Vietnam War. Notice I did not say "make sense of," because Coppola's goal was to show that very little about Vietnam "made sense."

As the era of post-9/11 war (hopefully) winds down, we find ourselves again needing to come to terms with insanity. There have been some excellent documentaries about the Bush wars, such as 2007's No End in Sight, but the treatment of the Iraq war is limited to Clint Eastwood's militaristic hagiography American Sniper. Afghanistan was the forgotten war, as far as Hollywood is concerned.

Tina Fey is the first to tackle the absurdity of yet another empire trying and failing to impose its will on Afghanistan. In Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, she portrays Kim Baker, a war correspondent based on the real-life Kim Barker, whose book The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan served as the jumping-off point for the script, penned by 30 Rock showrunner Robert Carlock. Fey's Baker is chosen to cover the Afghanistan war, and she leaves her cushy desk job in New York for Kabul.

It's undeniably fun to ride along with Fey as she dives into what the international press and military types call "The Kabubble." Whiskey Tango Foxtrot taught me that the Afghanistan war was covered primarily by people with constant, grinding hangovers. The capital is a whirlwind of Champagne-sipping consulate parties, internet porn, and hookahs full of hashish in the media room. The Westerner's desperate decadence is in sharp contrast to the lives of the locals.

Kim's confidence is constantly being tested as she gets a ground-level tour of different international flavors of sexism, from the Westerners' military bravado, to the lecherous Afghan government official played by Alfred Molina, to the conservative Muslim women who are the most fierce defenders of the religious patriarchy. Fey's assured strength at the center of Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is a double-edged sword, and the episodes where she bears witness to the war's surreal futility — including a take where a mostly silent Marine general (Billy Bob Thornton) digests the awkward answer to the mystery of why an American-dug village well keeps getting blown up — give way to a focus on her romanic misadventures with Iain and her struggle to advance her journalistic career while the war descends into a stalemate. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot feels like a missed opportunity to use humor to dig deeper into America's twisted relationship with militarism; the great statement about the legacy of Bush's bungled wars will have to wait for another day.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
Now playing
Multiple locations

Keep the Flyer Free!

Always independent, always free (never a paywall),
the Memphis Flyer is your source for the best in local news and information.

Now we want to expand and enhance our work.
That's why we're asking you to join us as a Frequent Flyer member.

You'll get membership perks (find out more about those here) and help us continue to deliver the independent journalism you've come to expect.



Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

    • Wildlife

      Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal are a couple in crisis in Paul Dano’s directorial debut.
    • Bohemian Rhapsody

      The Glossy Biopic Can’t Live Up To Freddy Mercury’s Legend
    • First Man

      Ryan Gosling plays Neil Armstrong in this flawed biopic


Hungry Memphis

The Nine Now Open

Fly On The Wall Blog

What’s Kids in the Hall Co-Founder Kevin McDonald Doing in Memphis?

Hungry Memphis

Gordon Ramsay's in Memphis to Save a Restaurant!

News Blog

TVA CEO Set to Retire in April

News Blog

Leaders Work to Revamp Public Art Guidelines

Tiger Blue

Three Thoughts on Tiger Football

Tiger Blue

#22 LSU 85, Tigers 76

Film/TV/Etc. Blog

This Week At The Cinema: Indie Memphis Winners and BTS

Beyond the Arc

Grizzlies Lose First Home Game to Utah Jazz 96 - 88


More by Chris McCoy

Readers also liked…

  • Fifty Shades Freed

    Feature length commercial for luxury goods or chilling glimpse into the post-human future?
    • Feb 16, 2018
  • Death Grip

    Memphis filmmaker Sam Bahre talks about his 11-year struggle to create I Filmed Your Death.
    • Apr 19, 2018
  • The Lost City of Z

    A mesmerizing story of obsession in the Amazon jungle
    • May 1, 2017
© 1996-2018

Contemporary Media
460 Tennessee Street, 2nd Floor | Memphis, TN 38103
Visit our other sites: Memphis Magazine | Memphis Parent | Inside Memphis Business
Powered by Foundation