WHISKEY TANGO FOXTROT

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - WEEK IN MOVIES -

Di­rec­tor: Glenn Fi­carra and John Re­qua (Crazy, Stupid, Love) Star­ring: Tina Fey, Mar­got Rob­bie, Martin Freeman, Billy Bob Thorn­ton Ver­dict: War can be hell ... and a hell of a job

THERE is some­thing about Tina Fey’s style of hu­mour – which is all about ac­cu­mu­lat­ing plenty of short, sharp jabs rather than land­ing a knock­out blow – which siz­zles on TV, but rarely gets warm on the big screen.

The cre­ator and star of the peer­less sit­com 30 Rock most re­cently turfed out in the es­teemed com­pany of Amy Poehler in the dire Sis­ters.

So it is not un­fair to state that gen­eral ex­pec­ta­tions are low for Fey’s lat­est movie, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.

But wouldn’t you just know it? This ef­fec­tive blend of ge­nial light com­edy and in­tel­li­gent drama is the best thing Fey has done as a film per­former by a con­sid­er­able space. Fey stars as Kay Baker, a woman in her early 40s whose ca­reer as a TV news pro­ducer back in the early 2000s has hit a dis­tinct dead-end.

The only way out is to take up an of­fer no­body else in her depart­ment dares ac­cept: cov­er­ing the war in Afghanistan as an em­bed with US troops sta­tioned in Kabul.

As on-air tal­ent, Kay is barely qual­i­fied for the as­sign­ment. How­ever, as soon as hard­line com­bat breaks out around her, she is more taken aback than any­one by how mo­ti­vated she is by one life-or-death sit­u­a­tion af­ter an­other.

In spite of the set­ting, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is not a war pic­ture. At least not in the tra­di­tional sense.

Though co-di­rec­tors Glenn Fi­carra and John Re­qua (Crazy, Stupid, Love) do a fine job of cap­tur­ing the strange bat­tle­ground on which Amer­ica fought the Tal­iban, the film ex­cels in de­pict­ing the close bonds that form among those both cov­er­ing and caught up in the on­go­ing con­flict.

The city of Kabul it­self is re­ferred to as “the Ka-bub­ble”: an al­ter­nate re­al­ity where sex, drugs and a rolling bar tab are the only means pos­si­ble to keep de­pres­sion at bay. A place where one’s in­ner demons can ac­tu­ally form a cru­cial outer layer of pro­tec­tion.

The film’s one marked flaw is that though its at­mos­phere and char­ac­ters are force­fully vivid, the story (based on the real-life ex­ploits of ca­ble news jour­nal­ist Kay Barker) never builds to any­thing quite so colour­ful. It is cer­tainly not the fault of an al­ways on-point Fey, how­ever, whose easy chem­istry with a fine sup­port cast (in­clud­ing an ex­cel­lent Mar­got Rob­bie as a ri­val reporter) keeps the au­di­ence in­ter­ested and in­volved through­out.

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