Thursday, 26 May 2016

Review: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
Cert: 15 / 112 mins / Dir. John Requa & Glenn Ficarra / Trailer

I don't always see films in which A-Ha's Take On Me is sung badly by one of the male characters, but when I do, I like to watch two in the same week. Mind you, the same also goes for Martin Freeman struggling under the weight of an accent that's not his own, so Whiskey Tango Foxtrot makes that a double occurrence, too. Especially since Freeman's also the one making Morten Harket spin in his premature grave…

This adaptation of the bestselling memoirs of TV war-correspondent Kim Barker goes the classic melodramatic route of peppering its first act with gags and witty asides, largely to be used as a direct comparison against the third act where all the drama and poignancy is. The problem is that WTF is neither as funny nor poignant as it'd like to think it is, and that's underlined by Tina Fey and Margot Robbie over-acting in almost every one of their scenes. Although the situation in Afghanistan was (is) extreme, gallows-humour requires a delicate touch, and there are many gradations of drama/comedy required in the emotional roller-coaster which is 'the modern war film'. While Fey/Robbie certainly don't de-rail that roller-coaster, their performances are either on one or ten, leaving it to the supporting cast to fill in the blanks. It also doesn't help that Tina Fey has a habit of pulling a comedy-face after delivering each joke*1; you can take the girl out of SNL…

The film works on a bare-bones level, and I did care for the characters (even the aforementioned Martin Freeman's one, despite his vocal performance being a needless insult to Scotland), but I always felt like I should be caring more, somehow. I get the impression that a documentary on Kim Barker's work would be far more affecting, not least because it wouldn't feel the need to try so hard.

While Whiskey Tango Foxtrot skilfully (and thankfully) avoids flag-waving, the film struggles with the humanitarian side of modern warfare, which is pretty much its sole remit, when you think about it.

Co-directors John Requa and Glenn Ficarra do their best of making unlikeable characters valued and unbearable situations compelling, but I can't help feel that a lot has been lost on the journey from page to screen…

So, watch this if you enjoyed?
Self-indulgent drama like Burnt.

Should you watch this in a cinema, though?
The cinema's not going to be essential to enjoying this, no.

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
Personally, I don't think so.
Although I seem to be in a minority

Is this the best work of the cast or director?
No, everyone on-board here has been more focused in other movies.

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
Probably not.

Yes, but is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
Definitely not.

Yes, but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 2: Alfred Molina turns up in this, and he was in Raiders of the Lost Ark along with that Harrison 'Solo' Ford chap...

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

And seriously though, look at that…
Cineworld Ticket-Stub Bingo!

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. Seat F14. Bastards.
I saw five movies that day (a new personal record), and all I wanted was seat F12 for my Cineworld Ticket-Stub Bingo win. But not only was that seat taken when I booked, the guy was already in it when I got into the auditorium. The only person in there. Doing a crossword, of all things. Like the fucker had been parked-up all day*2, just so that I wouldn't win the prize.
What an absolute bastard.
Because my showings were so close together, I couldn't book them all online as the system classes anything starting within 45 minutes of the previous film as 'overlapping', so only the on-site staff can over-ride that. You can't plan this shit, you know; you only win Cineworld Ticket-Stub Bingo with a combination of luck and skill.
I've heard the prize is fantastic, although no-one there will tell me what it is.
But I suppose there's always next time…

*1 Although Fey's to-camera mugging pales in comparison to the 'Kabul's first female driver' spot, in which she watches the joke occur and then literally explains to the audience why it's funny. And unlike a Stewart Lee routine, it's not given any new level of nuance by this happening.

*2 He hadn't, obviously, as I'd seen Angry birds in the seat between us both not half an hour earlier. But still.

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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