“Whiskey Tango Foxtrot”


            We’ll all pretend that we don’t know it’s an acronym.  There.  Now that that’s out of the way----

            Tina Fey is known as a comedienne extraordinaire, and she is.  And perhaps because she’s the main character, it’s billed as a comedy.  But it really isn’t.  Based on a true story, it’s about an American journalist’s foray into Afghanistan ten years ago,  at a time when the American troops were routinely facing enemy fire from elements of the Taliban.

            Kim Baker (Tina Fey) was at a place in her career where she was just kinda stuck.  She even felt stuck on the same treadmill in her workout place.  She just wasn’t going anywhere.  She felt that going overseas would broaden her horizons, and it sure did.  She was not really prepared for the strictures on the way women dress, in a patriarchal culture where women were routinely belittled, subjugated, and even harassed.  She was not used to seeing children begging in the streets, and shocked to discover some of them were running cons on unsuspecting tourists.  Not that it was exactly a tourist’s paradise:  it was actually a war zone.  But the journalists coming from all over the world formed their own little tight-knit community, which wasn’t exactly a Sunday School picnic.  There was a lot of drinking, more than a little carousing, and even some drug use.  The elements of personal danger probably added to the impulse to “eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” The reporters had their personal hierarchies and professional jealousies, of course, but they had much more in common than mere physical proximity.  Kim even developed a “special” relationship with a Scottish reporter, Iain MacKelpie (Martin Freeman, who’s actually English, but we dumb Americans don’t know the difference).

            The first day she arrived, Kim told her American boyfriend she wanted to come home.  But she soon not only became accustomed to the dangerous, exotic, locale, she even began to be addicted to the adrenalin rush of the imminent danger and the constantly-changing situation.  The American boyfriend soon drops out of sight, but Kim stays, until she realizes that she’s losing interest in ever wanting to go home again, which is the very thing that convinces her that she needs to exit while she’s still able.

            Tina Fey finally has a role with some substance, and she utilizes it well.  This isn’t a silly part, it’s so serious that her character runs the risk of taking herself too seriously----whoda thunk it?  “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” is an interesting showcase for her developing acting talent.

Questions for Discussion:

1)       Was our military presence in Afghanistan worth it?

2)      Have you ever found yourself in a different cultural context?  How did you respond?

3)      Do your professional colleagues represent comrades, rivals, a support system, an unfriendly competition, or some awkward combination?

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association