Tina Fey succeeds at war comedy in ‘Whiskey Tango Foxtrot’

Randi Mattox

“Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” means WTF in the NATO phonetic alphabet commonly used by the military. WTF is exactly what you’ll be thinking — but in a good way — after watching this cleverly-titled film. 

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Inspired by the best-selling novel “The Taliban Shuffle,” “Whisky Tango Foxtrot” tells the story of journalist Kim Baker, played by Tina Fey, who reported on the Global War on Terrorism in Kabul, Afghanistan, for three years during the early 2000s.

The movie opens to a crowded dance floor in a club located in Kabul. Baker is drinking and dancing. Suddenly, there is a loud sound and the room begins shaking. A bomb just went off outside of the club. Immediately, the scene ends and the movie flashes back to Baker sitting at a news desk during a meeting held years before the bombing.

During this meeting, Baker, who at this point in the movie is working as a cable news producer, is asked to take a job reporting on the war in Afghanistan. This job is completely out of her element, but she reluctantly agrees, considering that she has no children and a boring relationship. Baker leaves for Afghanistan where her three-month assignment turns into three years of war reporting.

The bulk of the movie takes place in Afghanistan, where Baker faces the challenges of becoming a war reporter. She is forced to complete her job in a highly dangerous setting. She has to adjust to a new culture and way of life. And, most importantly, she has to become comfortable with the fact that her desk just became a war zone and that her daily life involves hearing gunshots and bombs while she reports on tragedy and death. Ultimately, she has to ask herself whether or not she wants to become comfortable with all of these things. And if she does become comfortable with her new reality, will she ever be able to return to a normal life?

“Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” is one of the most entertaining movies I have seen in a while. It has elements of humor, drama and action. All of these aspects work perfectly with the story to provide an eye-opening look into oversees war while still providing a laugh-out-loud moment at least every five minutes.

My favorite part of the movie was that Fey played the lead role. Any movie involving Fey is going to be funny, but Fey showed viewers a new side to her that audiences have never seen before. She resembled a true actress, as opposed to a comedian playing a role in a movie. We are used to watching Fey take on roles that closely resemble who she is as a person in the real world. Her character in movies like “Mean Girls” and “Sisters” always seemed like characters that were basically just extensions of who she is, which is likely due to the fact that she was a writer for both of those films. But “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” is the first time in which Fey’s played a character different from herself. And it was remarkable. Her character was relatable, heartwarming and funny. “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” made me love Fey even more.

“Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” demonstrates the unexpected realities of war reporting. Baker interviews warlords, goes partying with strangers every night and puts herself in life-threatening positions to get the best information. It is surprising to learn about how these reporters were forced to cope with their situations. “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” does a huge justice to all of the war reporters who cover the Global War on Terrorism. Audiences, who may or may not have preconceived opinions about the media, are exposed to the sacrifices reporters had to make in order to get the story.

The only visible flaw in “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” is the length. Normally, a movie with a runtime of one hour and 52 minutes is perfectly acceptable. However, when the movie takes place in one setting, it begins to feel drawn-out after a while. It was about 20 minutes too long.

“Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” leaves you wondering how war correspondents are able to do their jobs, how soldiers are able to endure the hardships of war and how people in Afghanistan are able to live in such a poverty-stricken environment. The ironic thing is that you’ll be pondering all of these deeply profound questions while also laughing at the fact that you watched Fey pee in a bush and dance in an Afghanistan nightclub.

Although “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” takes place in a war and includes many scenes that display the downsides of war reporting and life in Afghanistan, the movie is still hilarious. “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” is one of the best comedies to have hit the theaters this year.

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Collegian Reporter Randi Mattox can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @randimattox.