By Jack Dignan
Over two months after its release in the US, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot finally hits Australian theatres this Thursday, and it's about time we got this unique and funny look at war. While most war films focus in on the actual action, usually taking us on either an honest or patriotic look at the struggles and the fight, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is restraint in what actual war footage it shows, focussing in on the impact of war in the world around us, especially the impact journalism can have on it, and it's this unique perspective that makes this film surprisingly decent.
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is the true story of Kim Baker (Tina Fey), a journalist sent to Afghanistan to provide coverage on the war going on there. With the help of reporters Ian MacKelpie (Martin Freeman) and Tanya Vanderpool (Margot Robbie), we follow Kim's efforts to constantly go for the bigger story as she remains in this country for three years. The longer she stays, the more dangerous the scenarios get, and despite her struggles and the inferior power given to women there, Kim never gives up, despite occasionally putting the entire cast of this movie at a safety risk, and it's this aspect of the plot that makes Whiskey Tango Foxtrot as entertaining as it is.
It's not flawless, and I'll get into the flaws in a moment, but Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, the title a reference to the abbreviation WTF (which ends up being a rather relevant theme in this film), is an important look at the power of journalism, particularly that of war journalism. It doesn't always get straight to its point, but by the time the film comes to end, the film's important message is well and truly across, and the film depicts this message in a shockingly honest way.
Now, before I start pointing out the negatives, I must say that I loved the entire cast in this movie. Tina Fey gives a powerhouse performance, even if the film incorporates a bit too much of her typical sense of humour. Her chemistry with Martin Freeman and Margot Robbie bounces from the screen, and while I do have some spoiler-filled problems with how their character's relationships ended up, a great majority of their scenes together were great.
Without a doubt, the two biggest issues with this film is the pacing and plotting. The plot is practically non-existent. There's very little conflict or tension, and it's the scenes that do incorporate this that are the best moments in the whole film. The film is just a series of news reports, and while this could've made for an exciting and gripping film, the plot and tone are all over the place, resulting in a lot of wasted potential.
The film could've used a little more steam in the first twenty or so minutes, but once it gets its footing right, it manages to pick things up fast. The film's opening is a sloppy, poorly pieced together mess that is never sure if it's trying to be funny or serious, and the final result is far from pleasant. There's an overabundance of sexual humour that just isn't needed, and while it does improve later on in the movie, it's still there, and I can't help but think of how much better this film would've been without it.
To sum up, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is an important and fascinating true story with some rather excellent performances, but the film severely lacks focus in both its tone and plot, mixing in too much of Tina Fey's typical humour. But while the humour feels mostly out of place, the war aspects make this just interesting enough to work.