Francesca Rudkin is an entertainment reviewer for NZ Herald.

Movie review: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

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Tina Fey is keen to show she too can handle a more complex, dramatic role. Photo / Paramount Pictures
Tina Fey is keen to show she too can handle a more complex, dramatic role. Photo / Paramount Pictures

Like her Date Night co-star Steve Carell has done with The Way Way Back and Foxcatcher, comedian Tina Fey is keen to show she too can handle a more complex, dramatic role - and the switch suits her.

A snappy adaptation of reporter Kim Baker's memoir The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot still shows Fey's hilarious side, but it's a satirical take on life as a war correspondent and requires Fey to move through gears from serious to funny and absurd.

After reading Kim Barker's book  actress Tina Fey was inspired to work on an adaptation for the screen. Photo / Paramount Pictures
After reading Kim Barker's book actress Tina Fey was inspired to work on an adaptation for the screen. Photo / Paramount Pictures

Quirky music choices by Crazy, Stupid, Love directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, sharp one-liners and dangerous situations means sometimes delivering all three at once, which Fey manages with ease.

Written by Fey's regular collaborator, 30 Rock's Robert Carlock, WTF is a typical fish-out-of-water story about a woman who travels to a war zone to find herself, in the process giving us an insight into life as an adrenalin-addicted journalist.

It begins as something quite unique, with a surreal mix of politics, drama, comedy, action and, even, romance, but as it all unfolds WTF gets more and more predictable.

In real life a print journalist for The Chicago Tribune, Baker is portrayed in the film as a cable news producer who steps out from behind her desk to become on-screen talent, reporting from the frontline in Afghanistan in 2003.

After a series of amusing rookie mistakes - such as taking a sniper-friendly bright orange pack on patrol with US marines - she's surprised to find herself addicted to the rush of war. Her three-month stint turns into a three-year tenure, which comes to an end only when it becomes apparent to Baker that life as a hard-partying, thrillseeking journalist isn't a normal way to live life.

Though the film avoids the question of whether troops should be in Afghanistan, it touches on issues to do with journalism and ethics.

As Baker and colleagues, British TV journalist Tanya Vanderpoel (Robbie) and Scottish photojournalist Iain MacKelpie (Freeman), become obsessed about breaking the next big story they become less concerned with how they source stories, the safety of them and those around them, and the consequences of the stories they put to air.

Fey holds her own against everyone in the room, except Billy Bob Thornton, who is utterly delightful and unpredictable as a hard-ass general with a soft heart. A little like us, Fey looks like she's just sitting back and enjoying watching him work.

WTF is a little uneven at times as it struggles to keep up with the constant shifts in tone, and there are a few casting choices that don't quite work such as Alfred Molina as a local politician, but overall, it's an entertaining, energetic effort that gives a sense of the absurdity of life as a war correspondent.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

Cast: Tina Fey, Margot Robbie, Martin Freeman
Directors: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa
Running Time: 112 mins
Rating: TBC
Verdict: Mix of comedy and drama doesn't always work, but Tina Fey works her magic.

- TimeOut

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