Much like the military acronym within the film’s title, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is a film that will have you feeling puzzled and confused with the way it works but at least this time you’ll be able to laugh. You won’t know why it doesn’t excite you or captivate you compared to other blockbusters currently out but at the same time you won’t feel that it’s necessarily a bad movie – and it isn’t.
The film is the latest picture of Tina Fey who plays Kim Baker, a dissatisfied television journalist who’s down on enthusiasm and seeks a dramatic change of lifestyle. An opening as a foreign correspondent in Afghanistan presents itself and soon she is swept into a new world that soon makes her question her desires to leave in the first place. We follow her travels over the year’s post 9/11, finding fresh meaning in herself and pushing the drive of her journalistic instincts to the limit. Directors John Requa and Glenn Ficarra team up once more for their fourth film and it seems that they’re slowly making better progress.
What surprised me the most within this film, is the way the humor of the scenes manage to creep into you and almost make you burst out laughing. You know the jokes are dumb and what you’re laughing at seems so childish but the way it’s presented still catches you off guard. Having a fine grade of actors at your disposal doesn’t hurt and it’s why I think these scenes work. Each character feels grounded in reality, albeit a skewed form that film refers to as ‘Khabulism’, which is true to the credit of the people playing them. Recognition should still be given to writer Robert Carlock for connecting our cast but the performances go above and beyond what was written for them.
I mention comedy within my first paragraph of this analysis and you might be wondering from the synopsis given, how does it even have any place within the spectrum of the main plot setting? This is why this movie does not demand your attention. It’s a film that isn’t sure of exactly what it wants to be. It has hints of seriousness akin to the Secret Life of Walter Mitty but at the same time uses the comicality of Crazy, Stupid Love. Whilst these opposing sides work well enough on their own, it’s in the way they are balanced that poses the main problem with the film, and this film did not effectively solve this conundrum.
Rather than being clearly defined with a specific theme or idea, the film, in turn, presents several that lingers throughout but never get explored to their full potential. Instead, we’re just degraded to observers of these characters and passages from one scenario to the next. We can see that Kim deals with trying to find herself by thrusting headfirst into dangerous situations in an effort to become a better reporter. We can see the worrying possibilities of being addicted to exposing yourself to risks for higher rewards that Kim soon realizes. The problem is that we’re only just seeing this rather than feeling her trials and tribulations. And this is what the film lacks.
Every comedy has some dramatic aspects tied to it because the plot requires a conflict to take place but great comedies balance these facets perfectly which allows them to bounce off each other seamlessly. They become quotable from the scenes that make you laugh and they become memorable for the emotions they can evoke. It’s from the latter that Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is lacking. If director’s Requa and Ficarra can focus on this with their future films, I believe that one day we shall be seeing an improving comedy duo in the future. Till then, enjoy and watch some mindless humor and try to take something more from it if you can.