Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is a 2016 American biographical war comedy-drama film, directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa and written by Robert Carlock. It is based on the memoir The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan by Kim Barker. The film stars Tina Fey, Margot Robbie, Martin Freeman, Christopher Abbott, Alfred Molina, and Billy Bob Thornton. It was released on March 4, 2016, by Paramount Pictures. It received mixed reviews from critics who praised the acting, but criticized the predictable screenplay and execution. The movie was a box office failure, grossing only $24.9 million against its $35 million budget.
In 2003 New York City, Kim Barker (Tina Fey) is a television journalist who is dissatisfied with the state of her career covering low-profile stories. She decides to take a short assignment as a war correspondent in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom, to the disappointment of her boyfriend Chris (Josh Charles), who spends a lot of time traveling. Assigned to low-budget living quarters with other international journalists, she develops a friendship with noted BBC correspondent Tanya Vanderpoel (Margot Robbie) and lecherous Scottish freelance photographer Iain MacKelpie (Martin Freeman). After a period of adjustment, aided by her Afghan “fixer” Fahim Ahmadzai (Christopher Abbott), she begins taking well to the assignment. She elicits frank remarks on camera from soldiers questioning the value of their assignment there and puts herself in harm’s way to capture combat incidents on video. American Marine commander General (previously Colonel) Hollanek (Billy Bob Thornton) sees her as an inexperienced nuisance.
Despite the danger, Kim stays in Afghanistan for months, then years, beyond her original assignment. She catches Chris unprepared with a middle-of-the-night video call and finds him with another woman, ending their relationship. Against her better judgment, she begins a sexual relationship with Iain, which over time also develops into a more personal one. Although her status as a woman presents challenges in an Afghan Islamic society which places restrictive roles on women, she also uses it to her advantage. Kim gains access to women in a village who explain that they’ve been sabotaging the US-built well because they welcome the daily walk to the river away from the men. She also walks a tightrope, taking advantage of the thinly-veiled sexual interest of Afghan Attorney General Ali Massoud Sadiq (Alfred Molina) to use him as a source. Fahim – who treated opium addicts before the war – cautions her, pointing out that danger can be like a drug.
Despite their mutual friendliness, Kim remains in competition with other journalists for stories and resources from their employers back home. After three years in Afghanistan, Kim flies to New York to argue for more support from her network’s new boss, only to discover that Tanya is slated to take over from her. Meanwhile, Iain is kidnapped for ransom while traveling cross-country to cover a developing story that he had earlier offered to bring Kim in on. She returns “home” to Afghanistan, where she blackmails her “special friend”, Ali, for information about Iain’s whereabouts, and impresses upon Hollanek the political value to him of rescuing Iain. The mission – accompanied by Kim’s cameraman – is a success, both militarily and journalistically. However, shortly after Iain’s rescue Kim becomes disillusioned with both her tentative relationship and her station. She then bids farewell to her colleagues and Fahim and returns to the U.S. to stay.
After returning, she looks up a Marine (Evan Jonigkeit) who was transferred, apparently because of his on-camera comments to her, and subsequently lost both of his legs to an IED. She tries to apologize for the consequences of her actions, but he refuses to let her take the blame. She moves on to an on-camera desk job, where she finds herself interviewing Iain, who is going to be in New York soon as part of a tour for his new book, and who invites her to meet him for coffee.
Tina Fey as Kim Barker, a cable news reporter.
Margot Robbie as Tanya Vanderpoel, a British BBC News TV journalist whom Kim admires and befriends.
Martin Freeman as Iain MacKelpie, Kim’s unexpected love interest and a dedicated Scottish photojournalist.
Christopher Abbott as Fahim Ahmadzai, who acts as driver, translator, and all-around handyman for reporters.
Billy Bob Thornton as Colonel later Brigadier General Hollanek, US Marine Corps, a military man who initially scares Kim.
Alfred Molina as Ali Massoud Sadiq, a local official who has a romantic interest in her.
Sheila Vand as Shakira El-Khoury, a Lebanese reporter who works alongside Kim and Tanya.
Nicholas Braun as Tall Brian, Kim’s cameraman.
Steve Peacocke as Nic, Kim’s alpha male bodyguard.
Evan Jonigkeit as Lance Corporal Coughlin, a member of 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines when Baker is embedded.
Scott Takeda as Ed Faber.
Josh Charles as Chris, Kim’s boyfriend back in the States.
Cherry Jones as Geri Taub.
Sterling K. Brown as Sergeant Hurd, another member of 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines.
Thomas Kretschmann as an airplane passenger.