Game, dance, or quest? A look at the Afghanistan Journey


An uneven work of cinema, there are things to recommend a view of "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot" --- among them, the performance of Kim Fey as the courageous but often impulsive journalist for the Chicago Tribune. Various other character performances leave us wondering how serious the

intentions of the director were, in presenting a genuine picture of such a serious situation as war-torn Afghanistan in the early 2000s. There is a level of low humor presented, the in-your-face type, among the main participants of this story. I mean, when Baker's supposed 'best friend' in this foreign country is met for the first time, and she (Margot Robbie as Tanya Vanderpoel) greets her with an enthusiastic, "Is it all right with you if If*** your security guards?" how seriously are we meant to take her character?

However, moving on, we live with Kim Baker through a number of harrowing experiences, which include direct gun fire upon a jeep where she is a passenger, bombings of a night club where she is partying, and other dangerous situations (as when she plunges into a crowd of citizens in Kandahar, loosely disguised with her burqa, but soon clearly leveling her video-camera upon the proceedings) being lectured by a Taliban leader, apparently, to not watch TV broadcasts of imperialistic propaganda -- or entertainment, we imagine, as well), and other potentially-compromising activities.

Perhaps the most touching relationship featured here is the one Baker maintains with her guide (we are not sure who issued him), Fahim, who protects and aids her throughout most of her perilous and unexpectedly encountered circumstances and meetings in this mysterious country, where Baker is pictured as not knowing she was supposed to cover her hair, according to Sharia law, nor did she understand that venturing forth on a military mission with an psychedelic-glow orange backpack, was not exactly acceptable.

Back to the relationship - Fahim also shields her from hearing the critical or course comments directed at her by townspeople; more importantly, he confesses that he is coming to love her as though she were a potent addiction to his system - (him being married with children, not to mention an Afghanistanian) - thus precipitating a temporary break in their relationship. If they do re-unite by the close of the tale, I will not reveal, but their connection presents the most touching dimension shown in any of her relationships. She may find passion temporarily while 'on assignment,' but the more evidently transcendent reciprocity is identified in this exchange.

There are plenty of reminders that women play the 2nd-class citizen role in this country. The thoroughly bombed girls school is such an instance, where the melted crayons on the floor reflect the promise of the female potential and creative spirit, as it is harshly contrasted with the chalk-writing on the blackboard. 'Women should not be educated.' In another powerful example of how deeply the townswomen value their ability to communicate with one another, it is revealed at one point by Baker to a commanding general, that the wells which he is investigating the repeated destruction of, are indeed not being blown up by the enemy, but by the village women themselves: they reveal to Baker alone, that they enjoy - and live by - their walk to the river to gather water, so that they will have the time to socialize during that women-oriented journey and ritual - far from the sight of the oppressive menfolk of this town.

I would urge that Kim Baker's journey could almost have occurred in any politically-torn apart country. She moves from the state of being self-concerned and a seeker of fame and glory in her career, to a woman who finally takes her share of personal responsibility for the acts she herself has set off into a chain of events which have their sometimes tragic consequences. This quest and transformation of hers is worthy of noting. But once again, we are not often moved by the variety of characters with whom she comes into contact (with the exception, perhaps, of Fahim, played by Christopher Abbot) - and the regular displays of low humor, often centered around the proverbialA merican obsessions with sex and bathroom activities (peppered, too,with a few 'necessary' shows of violence between men competing for her affections), are not calculated to bring many deep devotees to this film. Tina Fey's performance tends to be believable, and at moments, impressive with her gritty and intense moments.

Afghanistan and its myriad difficulties, since other countries' preoccupation [from the early 2000s on] with hunting down terrorists, Taliban, and other abominable monsters in that country, is finally, the victim to be pitied.

Tina Fey's performance - based upon Baker's memoir, "The Taliban Shuffle," can only do so much to bring these horrors-beyond-imagination home to the audience. Along with the personal odyssey and transformation of Baker's character, it is incumbent upon us to open our eyes to the deep evil which man (and woman) is capable of inflicting upon his brothers and sisters. Even when it is all in the name of The Holy Religion and The Sacred War.

Perhaps especially - when this destruction and devastation are waged under the aegis of such claims.


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