By Kathryn Whitney Boole

I had expected that “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” was going to be a wacky comedy about the experiences of an embedded reporter during the war in the Afghanistan. The movie turned out to be something entirely different, and so much more than I anticipated. This is a very important film in many ways. From very first minute of the movie — a barrage of super-loud, cacophonic sound and chaotic visuals — to the understated and hopeful end, this film is an immersion in the clash of cultures inherent in a region at war. The film highlights the human qualities that lie beneath the surface of people whose posturing is a result of that state of war.

What makes this movie special is that it uses all aspects available to the medium to fully bring the audience into the experience. The opening sequence is jarring in sound and visuals. The same sequence occurs again, well into the heart of the story, and no longer seems as unsettling to us because we have grown accustomed to the combat environment. That’s what “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” does so well. It puts us into the same punishing battleground that the characters endure, which soon takes on a quality of normalcy.

Reporter Kim Baker wrote the book on which the film is based, “The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan.” The story covers the inclination for those of a certain personality type to be constantly staring down the face of danger — it’s an addiction to the adrenaline rush that the danger creates. That rush becomes a craved occurrence. We grow to understand the fire within that pushed Baker, played by Tina Fey, to put herself on the front lines day after day.

Fey underplays the role’s drama with skill. She creates a very real persona whose emotional arcs include tragedy and comedy in equal doses. Margot Robbie, as competitive reporter Tanya Vanderpoel, is larger than life. Martin Freeman does a great job with his portrayal of eccentric Scotsman Iain MacKelpie, whose sarcastic and witty view of the situation helps those around him stay sane. Alfred Molina, as a colorful and powerful Afghan politician, also nails the humor and tragedy of the situation. Christopher Abbott stands out as Baker’s translator Fahim Ahmadzai — a memorable performance. All the characters in this well-written story are complex and believable, even those that only appear for a short time on screen.

Directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa have put together a great team. The cinematography by Xavier Grobet and production design by Beth Mickle, both of whom have worked with the directors before, make us feel the surroundings even though, for obvious reasons, the movie could not actually be shot in Afghanistan. Composer Nick Urata has also worked with the directors before. He has used popular music very skillfully to evoke a time period and emotions.

“Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” is not a comedic romp. It is a dramatic tale based on a great true story, and it is a testament to the tragedy and comedy pervading our complicated world.

Rated R. 112 minutes.

Kathryn Whitney Boole has spent most of her life in the entertainment industry, which is the backdrop for remarkable adventures with extraordinary people. She is a Talent Manager with Studio Talent Group in Santa Monica. Reach her at For previously published reviews, see