HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
HTS Overall Score:83
If you base your decision to watch “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” based solely on the trailers that Paramount put out for the film, I think you’ll be in for quite a shock. The initial trailers that I saw painted the film as the next quirky comedy film from Tina Fey, with plenty of goofy humor and her oddball characters that she does so well hamming up the screen. While there certainly is some comedy in the film, “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” is much more of a dramedy, with SOME elements of comedy taking center stage, but the experience being much more bleak and grim than initially expected. The best comparison film that I can use to give you some perspective on what to expect is probably the movie “Up in the Air” with Vera Farmiga and George Clooney. “Whisky” is not nearly as witty and poignant as the afore mentioned film, but it manages to take a tired subject in the public eye and actually make it different and unusually entertaining at the same time.
I’m not sure WHY the powers that be decided to change the name of the film to “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” (which we all know is the spelled out version of the military slang acronym) from the book written by the main character (titled “The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Pakistan and Afghanistan), but I’m sure it had something to do with the desire to add some comedy to the rather bleak and droll biography of Kim Barker. The film opens up with a shot in 2006, but really we’re going to rewind just a bit to 2003 when Kim was working at a cable television news station in the States writing puff pieces. With the war in Iraq starting up in full gear, the hunt for the Taliban and Bin Laden in Afghanistan kind of took the back seat for news journalism. All of the really good war correspondents were over there and the Afghani territory was left pretty barren. Grabbing the leftovers, the station’s powers that be send over Kim Barker (Tina Fey), and unproven puff piece writer, to the Middle East, where she’s thrust into a completely alien world.
Having to learn through trial by fire, Kim learns to do her job in the middle of complete and utter cultural chaos (especially in comparison to her neat and tidy life in New York). She has to compete with war correspondents from all over the world, as well as get used to a world that requires her to be under constant supervision. Her only means of friendship comes from fellow female reporter, and legend, Tanya Vanderpoel (Margo Robbie), an over sexed reporter with a knack for wheedling her way into the good stories. Along with sleazy womanizing Scottish reporter Ian MacKelpie (Martin Freeman), a man who most DEFINITELY wants in her pants, Kim blossoms and changes from a mousy woman with no apparent future, to one of the most celebrated American war correspondents of the last few decades.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=73689[/img]“Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” is a bit of an odd film. I certainly thought that it was going to be an out and out comedy from the previews, and while there is some humor, most of that humor is front loaded with most of the jokes actually being IN the trailer itself. The rest of the movie tends to meander and shift around the next few years, as we watch Kim come into her own, so to speak. Initially she’s shy and a bit underappreciated, but her tenacity in the face of danger allows her to become a well-honed and impressive reporter (as clichés will do) by the end of the movie.
There’s some fun performances throughout the movie, with Tina Fey taking a very strong deviation from her crude and crass funny girl roles. Sure there’s moments in the movie where she reverts back to that cliché, but most of the time she’s a very strong and powerful character, and marks one of the few times where Fey plays a fairly straight character. Martin Freeman works as Ian, but the real standout performance in the movie happens to be Middle Eastern guide, Fahim (Christopher Abbott), who plays a vital role in befriending the young woman when she has nothing to hold onto. I have to give honorable mention to Billy Bob Thornton, as his humorous take on General Hollanek added some much needed levity to the film.
I wanted to like “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” more than I did, and while I really enjoyed pieces of the film, there is a definite sense of “wandering” in the plot. The movie tends to meander around and doesn’t exactly give you a solid sense of purpose. By the end of the runtime I still had a slight furrow in my brow, wondering just what exactly I was supposed to glean from watching it. There’s plenty of action, plenty of humor and plenty of life lessons, but there doesn’t seem to be a wildly cohesive and unifying plot point that brings all of these fantastically shot scenes together.
Rated R for pervasive language, some sexual content, drug use and violent war images
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=73697[/img]“Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” was originally filmed in 1.85:1 using what APPEARS to be digital cameras (although I can’t exactly tell, there are times it looks almost filmic, but none of my sources can confirm what type of cameras were used to capture the dramedy), but seems to have been opened up ever so slightly to fit the standard 1.78:1 TV aspect ratio. The seemingly digital photography looks splendid, with all sorts of fine detail abounding in the dusty image, but also managing to look very sandy and earthy at the same time. Dust, grime, and bits of desaturated desert look bleak and grimly resplendent in the desert scenes. There are a few moments where Kim is back home in the States, and those shots tend to look crisper, cleaner and more digitally glossy with bright colors and razor sharp detail. Black levels in Afghanistan can looks a bit washed out sometimes, and what appears to be digital noise can sometimes make its way into the picture.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=73705[/img]Paramount seems to be having an off and on love affair with switching between the two next generation object based formats, and while “10 Cloverfield Lane” sported an Atmos track, they decided to give DTS some loving here and added in a hefty DTS:X track. “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” was NOT a film that seemed to warrant a DTS:X lossless track from the trailers, but I was very pleasantly surprised to experience a very dynamic and robust audio experience. The movie starts out with the main characters partying their tails off in Afghanistan, and the track is just alive with the raucous sounds of people living it up, and then we have the bomb go off in the background, rocking the already impressive track with even more raw power. Even though there is definitely some moments of front heavy dialogue, the track is alive with the Middle Eastern music, as well as the whomp whomp of a helicopter blades, or the vicious explosion of an air to ground missile impacting. Surrounds are used heavily throughout, with the music and violent encounters making it a very immersive sensation. LFE is merciless, with constant artillery fire going off, either up close or in the distance, and the aircraft making my seats vibrate with the incredible power they exude.
• All In: The Making of Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
• War Reporter: The Real Kim
• Embedded In Reality – Find out how the military played a pivotal role in bringing the movie to life.
• Wedding Party - Delve into the rich Afghan culture with a fun featurette on the joyous wedding celebration from the film.
• Laughing Matters – See how the characters relied on drinking, partying and other vices to cope with the constant threat of danger.
• Deleted Scenes
• Extended Scene
“Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” isn’t exactly the quirky comedy that the trailers made it out to be, but the zaniness that WAS included worked to sort of counteract the depressing reality of the situation that real life Kim Barker had to deal with over in the Middle East. Sometimes the movie meanders, and I’m not deadly certain WHAT the point was at times, but it makes for an interesting watch, as well as a very different role for comedian Tina Fey. There’s wit, there’s humor, and there’s reality all tossed into a blender and put on frappe mode. While it wasn’t as witty or poignant as “Up in the Air”, the twisted little dramedy certainly had its moments of brilliance. Audio and video are simply top notch, and I was really surprised to notice that there is a decent amount of extras on the 2 disc set. While it may not be for everyone, “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” is certainly entertaining and worth at least a watch.
Starring: Tina Fey, Martin Freeman, Margo Robbie
Directed by: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa
Written by: Robert Carlock (Screenplay), Kim Barker (Book)
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS:X (DTS-HD MA 7.1), English DTS Headphone:X, French, Spanish, Portuguese DD 5.1
Runtime: 116 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: June 28th, 2016
Buy Whiskey Tango Foxtrot On Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Worth a Watch
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