By Theruni Perera
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is a film based off of the book “ The Taliban shuffle; Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan” It tells the story of Journalist Kim Barker Who in 2002 is given the opportunity to go to Afghanistan to report on the war. She was meant to stay only for 3 months but ends up staying for 4 years. In New York Kim lead a dull life, she wrote copy for news anchors. When given the opportunity to change her life and report from Afghanistan she takes it. The film documents the challenges and triumphs Kim baker faces as not only a woman but also a westerner in Afghanistan.
When first upon seeing the trailer for this film I had seen Tina Fey and assumed this would be a comedy. Apparently this movie is classified as a “dramadey”. A drama and a comedy combined. We follow Kim Baker the main character and a round character. She is a woman in her 40s living an average life. The movie shows her transitioning into a more fearless woman. Her supporting characters are more flat and do not transition throughout the film. They are mostly there to support her change. The over all acting was great.
The cinematography of this film was well thought out. While watching the movie I was under the impression this film was actually filmed in Afghanistan. The crew had purchased stock shots from the movie “The Kite Runner”, but ended up not using them. In reality it was mostly shot in New Mexico and some scenes in Morocco. Shooting the location the cinematographer made it feel as if you were in the dessert. Since there was military involved in this film we got to the see the dessert at every angle; land and sky. Panning out on the full dessert before focusing in on the scene emphasized the reality of the war zone. When shooting the Main character many shots were made to replicate photos of the actual Kim Barker. The cinematographer used a variety of shots. Since this was a story of a journalist we see a lot of face front shots to show reporting. There is also the use of the over the shoulder angles when two people are conversing. It emphasizes how the character is perceived. The guesthouse where all the reporters had lived was shot as a constant party zone. It was always dimly lit if not dark. The guesthouse was lit this way to show that is a dark place and would eventually cause a turning point.
I think the cinematography was the most important aspect of this film. When in the dessert the colors were very neutral, it was mostly sandy yellow and the solders in faded camouflage. The use of the faded colors helped convey that the Afghan war was it self, worn out. When Kim baker attends the wedding of her aid. It is where you will see the most color. It is a spectrum of bright colors that scream life and excitement. It allows the viewer to know good things can happen in this country despite all the war and terror. When Shown in the beginning of the Kim Baker is in her office. The use of color manipulation is prominent here. The use of dark navy and dull blues lite the scenes. It helps convey a felling of boredom and dullness. When the main character video chats with her boyfriend while she is in Kabul the boyfriend is always pictured in a dark grey background. This helps the viewer know her old life is boring. Natural lightening is emphasized when outdoors. Color plays a large part in this film.
Design and sets were crucial. The filming of the New Mexican dessert was one of two sets that were created for this film. It was here they were allowed to fly military helicopters and drive tanks. All of the combat scenes took place in the dessert and made the war more prominent and more of a danger to the characters. It was said that over 1,000 visual effects went into this movie. When showing women in villages, women were often warring burkas of blue. To help the women stand out from the rest who were dressed plainly. It was important that they stood out because it was a running joke of how little there was a female presence in the city. Although the scenes often take you to a different location, they all look pretty much the same. Dessert is dessert.
When it came to music and sound the film used a vast palate and it was all well placed. You could hear everything from bombs exploding to guns firing, until your back at the guesthouse where everyone’s smoking hookah and dancing to house of pain’s “Jump around” . Often times the characters referred to the surroundings as “The kabubble” The Kabul bubble. Meaning that there were isolated from the rest of the world and they were in this bubble. The sound really promoted this idea. If music wasn’t blasting to a party scene at the guesthouse then it was bombs blaring and military men screaming. Leaving no room for anything but war or the celebration of survival to infiltrate.
The editing of the film followed no simple structure. When framing the dessert the match on action editing technique was used to show the dessert from birds eye and ants eye and from the human eye. The 180 rule was almost never used to edit. It really promotes the chaos of a war zone. Parallel editing is used when editing combat scenes. It gives it a more spontaneous and realistic viewpoint.
In conclusion I have mixed feelings about this movie. It was advertised as a comedy, but over all it was a very sad film. Tina fey played the part well but its hard to take her seriously after you have seen her in films like baby mama. I also didn’t like the film because they didn’t make it seem as if being a woman reporter in a Muslim country was much of a challenge. They did an excellent job of making the viewer think and feel as if they were in Afghanistan. Overall the story was interesting, The main character was easily relatable. The supporting characters were very entertaining and just as important to the story.