Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is an interesting step in the careers of directing duo Glenn Ficarra and John Requa. After making what was by far and away one of the most underappreciated films last year, Focus, the duo reteams with the wonderful Margot Robbie, who is absolutely marvelous here in her supporting role. Bringing along Tina Fey to star in the show, Ficarra and Requa also add Martin Freeman, Alfred Molina, Christopher Abbot, and Billy Bob Thornton to their robust ensemble.
Just about everyone who has seen this so far has said that it is Fey’s best performance, which is entirely correct. Fey really hasn’t been given that much to do dramatically in the past, which is why her performance in Whiskey Tango Foxtrot feels so refreshing. Fey has proven her commitment to her roles time and time again, whether it be something as immediately forgettable as This Is Where I Leave You or the comedic triumph that is 30 Rock. Her step into drama with Whiskey Tango Foxtrot isn’t particularly anything that dramatic, as the film is rather hard to tie down to a specific genre. It doesn’t teeter into its romantic aspect nearly far enough to qualify for a romance and also doesn’t have enough comedy that would lead me to believe that this is the comedy that marketing is suggesting.
The script from first-time screenwriter Robert Carlock is primarily the weakest element of the film. It makes sense why Focus translated so well to the screen, since Ficarra and Requa wrote that on top of directing it. Without a doubt, I can see how this is a challenging source to adapt, as taking stories from a journalist and adapting them into something comedic isn’t something ideal, as the events that happen throughout the course of the film aren’t particularly that funny. With that being said, there are some very entertaining sequences throughout the film, like when Fey and Robbie take a night out on the town, for example.
Collaborating with cinematographer Xavier Grobet ( Focus, I Love You Phillip Morris ) again, the stylish nature that Ficarra and Requa capitalized on in Focus carries on over into Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. As he proved in Focus, Grobet has an eye behind the camera. It’s fascinating to see his transition from the highly stylized Focus to something much more contained. He still manages to capture some stunning exterior shots of Afghanistan and Pakistan, as most of his shots outside the city maintain this gorgeous orange-yellow hue, but most of the camerawork focuses on staying in-tune with the film’s mythos.
While it’s surely not what I was expecting, Whiskey Tango Foxtrotgenuinely surprised me in the direction that it was going all throughout its admittedly bloated runtime. Even in the scenes that didn’t feel particularly essential to the narrative, I was engaged enough due to the camerawork and the wonderful ensemble that the overall experience was certainly a pleasant one. Ficarra and Requa are two of the most exciting studio filmmakers working today that surely have me interested in everything they have planned down the line.