Biography Blu-ray Review

'Whiskey Tango Foxtrot' Blu-ray Review: A funny look at the seriousness of war

June 28, 2016Ben MK

Drawing from journalist Kim Barker's bestselling memoir, in which she recounted her experiences as a rookie reporter covering America's war on terror, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot casts Tina Fey as a fictitious version of Barker named Kim Baker, a fed-up New York City TV news producer who decides to dramatically shake up her life, leaving behind the comfort of her desk job for the war zone that is Kabul, Afghanistan circa 2003.

Once there, Kim finds herself joining the other foreign correspondents out to report on American's "forgotten war," including freelance photographer (and potential love interest) Iain MacKelpie (Martin Freeman) and fellow journalist (and potential rival) Tanya Vanderpoel (Margot Robbie). Paired with a local fixer (Christopher Abbott) and a hunky bodyguard (Stephen Peacocke), Kim quickly discovers just how different life is on the other side of the world, as she's embedded with a U.S. Marines unit commanded by a snarky General (Billy Bob Thornton).

Directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (Focus) and written by Robert Carlock (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), Whiskey Tango Foxtrot manages to uphold a good balance of both humor and drama, with most of the comedy front-loaded within the story's first two acts, as we watch Kim stumble and fumble as she tries to acclimatize to her new reality. As the film progresses, however, things gradually become more and more serious, with Kim battling her network bosses for airtime while the war begins to hit too close to home.

Still, even with the tonal shift, the movie never forgets its funny bone, whether it's Thornton's always-hilarious quips or a recurring bit in which Kim is relentlessly propositioned by a high-ranking Afghan politician (Alfred Molina). However, none of that takes the spotlight away from the film's core focus, which is the empowerment of its lead character. Yes, for better or worse, what Whiskey Tango Foxtrot ultimately boils down to is Kim's journey of self-discovery. That being said, the movie is no Eat Pray Love — and let's face it, that's probably a good thing.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot boasts a more varied visual palette than your typical comedy-drama, thanks to its wartime setting. Accordingly, the Blu-ray's 1080p picture features excellent clarity in both foreground and background elements, from the rocky terrain to the texture of the Afghan fabrics and the patterns on the U.S. soldiers' camouflaged uniforms, and with regular pops of color that stand out brilliantly amid a sea of brown and beige. As for the movie's sound design and the disc's full-bodied DTS:X sound mix, it's primarily a dialogue-driven affair, but that doesn't mean there isn't room for the noise of raucous partying, gunfire and explosions.

Paramount's two-disc Blu-ray release includes an iTunes/UltraViolet digital copy, a DVD and the following extras:

  • All In: The Making of Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (14:12) - A look at the film's setting, the characters and the actors who play them, the directing team of John Requa and Glenn Ficarra, the production and costume design, and the filmmakers' attention to detail.
  • War Reporter: The Real Kim (5:15) - A piece about reporter Kim Barker and the approach the filmmakers took to bringing her book, "The Taliban Shuffle," to the big screen.
  • Embedded In Reality (6:23) - The cast and crew talk about the U.S. military's involvement in the making of the film, both behind of and in front of the camera.
  • Wedding Party (5:31) - A piece about Afghan traditions and the creation of the film's Afghan wedding scene.
  • Laughing Matters (4:24) - A piece about the role of humor and cathartic behavior in the life of a war reporter.
  • Deleted Scenes (5:14) - Four scenes ("Kim and Iain," "Daymare," "Prison" and "Kabul Zoo").
  • Extended Scene (4:59) - An extended version of "The Wedding."

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is available from Paramount Home Entertainment as of June 28th, 2016. The Blu-ray features English DTS:X, French, Spanish and Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1, English DTS Headphone:X and English Dolby Digital 5.1 Descriptive Audio tracks. The film is presented with English, English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles. The total runtime is 1 Hr. 52 Mins.

* Reviewer's note: Portions of this Blu-ray review were adapted from my original review of the theatrical release, published on March 4th, 2016.

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