Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (film)
|Whiskey Tango Foxtrot|
Theatrical release poster
|Screenplay by||Robert Carlock|
|Based on||The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan|
by Kim Barker
|Music by||Nick Urata|
|Edited by||Jan Kovac|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Box office||$24.9 million|
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is a 2016 American biographical war comedy-drama film directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, and written by Robert Carlock, based on the memoir The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan by Kim Barker. The film stars Tina Fey, Margot Robbie, Martin Freeman, Christopher Abbott, Alfred Molina, and Billy Bob Thornton. It was released on March 4, 2016 by Paramount Pictures. It received mixed reviews from critics who praised the acting but criticized the predictable screenplay and execution and was a box office failure grossing only $24.9 million against its $35 million budget.
In 2003 New York City, dissatisfied with the state of her career covering low-profile stories, television journalist Kim Barker (Tina Fey) agrees to take a short assignment as a war correspondent in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom, to the disappointment of her boyfriend Chris (Josh Charles), who also spends a lot of time traveling. Assigned low-budget living quarters with other international journalists, she develops a friendship with noted BBC correspondent Tanya Vanderpoel (Margot Robbie) and lecherous Scottish freelance photographer Iain MacKelpie (Martin Freeman). After a period of adjustment aided by her Afghan "fixer" Fahim Ahmadzai (Christopher Abbott), she begins taking well to the assignment, eliciting frank remarks on camera from soldiers questioning the value of their assignment there, and putting herself in harm's way to capture combat incidents on video. American Marine commander General (previously Colonel) Hollanek (Billy Bob Thornton) takes a dim view of her as an inexperienced nuisance.
Despite the danger, Kim stays in Afghanistan for months, then years beyond her original assignment. She catches Chris unprepared with a middle-of-the-night video call, and finds him with another woman, ending their relationship. Against her better judgment, she begins a sexual relationship with Iain, which over time also develops into a more personal one. Although her status as a woman presents challenges in an Afghan Islamic society which places restrictive roles on women, she also uses it to her advantage, gaining access to women in a village who explain that they've been sabotaging the US-built well because they welcome the daily walk to the river away from the men, and recklessly, carrying a camera under a burqa to record a religious demonstration. She also walks a tightrope, taking advantage of the thinly-veiled sexual interest of Afghan Attorney General Ali Massoud Sadiq (Alfred Molina) to use him as a source. Fahim – who treated opium addicts before the war – cautions her, pointing out that danger can be like a drug.
Despite their mutual friendliness, Kim remains in competition with other journalists for stories and for resources from their employers back home. After three years in Afghanistan, Kim flies to New York to argue for more support from her network's new boss, only to discover that Tanya is slated to take over from her. Meanwhile, Iain is kidnapped for ransom while traveling cross-country to cover a developing story that Iain had earlier offered to bring Kim in on. Kim returns "home" to Afghanistan, where she blackmails her "special friend", Ali, for information about Iain's whereabouts, and impresses upon Hollanek the political value to him of rescuing Iain. The mission – accompanied by Kim's cameraman – is a success, both militarily and journalistically. However, shortly after Iain's rescue Kim becomes disillusioned with both her tentative relationship and her station. She then bids farewell to her colleagues and to Fahim, and returns to the U.S. to stay.
After returning, she looks up a Marine (Evan Jonigkeit) who was transferred, apparently because of his on-camera comments to her, and subsequently lost both of his legs to an IED. She tries to apologize for the consequences of her actions, but he refuses to let her take the blame. She moves on to an on-camera desk job, where she later finds herself interviewing Iain, who is going to be in New York soon as part of a tour for his new book, and who invites her to meet him for coffee.
- Tina Fey as Kim Barker, a cable-news reporter
- Margot Robbie as Tanya Vanderpoel, a British BBC News TV journalist whom Kim admires and befriends.
- Martin Freeman as Iain MacKelpie, Kim's unexpected love interest and a dedicated Scottish photojournalist.
- Christopher Abbott as Fahim Ahmadzai, who acts as driver, translator and all-around handyman for reporters.
- Billy Bob Thornton as Brigadier General Hollanek, US Marine Corps, a military man who initially scares Kim. Hollanek is referred to variously as "Colonel" and "General" throughout the film, but he is credited as "General," despite his presence in the field.
- Alfred Molina as Ali Massoud Sadiq, a local official who has a romantic interest in her.
- Sheila Vand as Shakira El-Khoury, a Lebanese reporter who works alongside Kim and Tanya.
- Nicholas Braun as Tall Brian, Kim's cameraman
- Steve Peacocke as Nic, Kim's alpha male bodyguard
- Evan Jonigkeit as Lance Corporal Coughlin, a member of 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines when Baker is embedded.
- Scott Takeda as Ed Faber
- Josh Charles as Chris, Kim’s boyfriend back in the States.
- Cherry Jones as Geri Taub
- Sterling K. Brown as Sergeant Hurd, another member of 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines.
- Thomas Kretschmann as Airplane Passenger
In February 2014, Tina Fey confirmed that her production company, Little Stranger, would adapt the memoir The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan by Kim Barker of the Chicago Tribune into a film. Fey would star in the lead role in the film, which would be produced by Lorne Michaels and written by Robert Carlock. On June 30, 2014, Paramount tapped Glenn Ficarra and John Requa to direct the film. On October 22, 2014, Margot Robbie joined the cast to play a competing reporter alongside Fey's character. On November 20, 2014, Martin Freeman was in talks to play Fey's character's unexpected love interest, a dedicated Scottish photojournalist. On January 10, 2015, it was reported that Nikolaj Coster-Waldau was in talks to join the film for a male lead role, although he did not ultimately star in the film. On February 2, 2015, Christopher Abbott joined the film's cast. On February 3, 2015, Nicholas Braun joined the film to play Tall Brian, Fey's character's cameraman, and the film was titled as Fun House. On February 9, 2015, Steve Peacocke was set to star in the film, playing Nic, Fey's character's alpha male bodyguard. On February 11, 2015, confirmed cast was announced, with Billy Bob Thornton, Alfred Molina, Sheila Vand, and Evan Jonigkeit also joining the cast of the film, in which Vand would play Shakira El-Khoury, a Lebanese reporter who works alongside Kim and Tanya.
Fey confirmed that the film's title would be Whiskey Tango Foxtrot in an interview with USA Today. Kim Barker was changed to a cable-news reporter named "Baker." Margot Robbie is playing Tanya Vanderpoel, a British TV journalist whom Kim admires and befriends. Christopher Abbott plays Afghan "fixer" Fahim Ahmadzai, who acts as driver, translator and all-around handyman for reporters. Martin Freeman is Iain MacKelpie, a Scottish war photographer who is Kim's love interest. Rounding out the ensemble cast is Billy Bob Thornton as General Hollanek, a military man who initially scares Kim, and Alfred Molina is a local official who has a romantic interest in her.
On February 3, 2015, the Albuquerque Journal reported that filming was underway in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Fey was spotted filming in the Santa Fe University of Art and Design. On February 11, 2015, Paramount also confirmed that principal photography had commenced on the film in New Mexico. It was filmed in part at the historic Scottish Rite Temple in Santa Fe. Production on the film concluded on April 10, 2015.
The film was originally titled The Taliban Shuffle and Fun House, before settling on Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. It was released on March 4, 2016. At the beginning of the rolling credits is a dedication to Fey's father, Donald Henry Fey, who died in 2015.
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot was released on DVD and Blu-ray on June 28, 2016.
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot grossed $23.1 million in North America and $1.8 million in other territories for a worldwide total of $24.9 million, against a production budget of $35 million.
In the United States and Canada, pre-release tracking suggested the film would gross $10–12 million from 2,374 theaters in its opening weekend, trailing fellow newcomers Zootopia ($60–70 million projection) and London Has Fallen ($20–23 million projection). The film ended up grossing $7.6 million in its opening weekend, finishing below expectations and 4th at the box office.
On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes the film holds an approval rating of 67% based on 202 reviews, with an average rating of 6.33/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "While WTF is far from FUBAR, Tina Fey and Martin Freeman are just barely enough to overcome the picture's glib predictability and limited worldview." Metacritic gives the film a weighted average score of 57 out of 100, based on 44 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B" on an A+ to F scale.
- Lara Logan, the first female reporter to cover the war in Afghanistan
- Whitewashing in film, due to casting of white actors in Afghan roles
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