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Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

London Has Fallen

March 10, 2016

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (** ½) R

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is the latest comedy-drama to be directed by the team of Glenn Ficarra and John Requa and it suffers from the same problems that the majority of their films (I Love You Phillip Morris, Focus) tend to have in common. Namely, a tendency to shift uncomfortably between comedy and drama with jarring shifts between the two. For instance, what are we to think of a daring rescue scene transpiring during the film’s final act that is underscored by Harry Nilsson’s 1972 number one hit, Without You? Admittedly, this is an interesting choice of music for the scene in particular but it leaves the viewer grappling with his or her own emotions and wondering what exactly it is that we’re supposed to be feeling. There are many instances like this to be found during the picture and it’s an understatement to state that it wears out its welcome.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is military terminology for the slang phrase best abbreviated as WTF in a publication such as the one that you, dear reader, hold in your very hands. The military, of course, is front and center in this film as it’s an adaptation of reporter Kim Barker’s book, The Taliban Shuffle, a memoir of her days spent on the front lines in Afghanistan during the early 2000s.

Barker is played in the film by Tina Fey, an actress who I would say is as good a choice as any for a role that calls for both comedic and dramatic chops to be fully on display. Fey straddles the line quite well and she, along with co-star Martin Freeman, more than amply keep the film afloat when it runs aground from time to time.

Tina Fey in WTF

The narrative is the basic template that more savvy movie goers will be on to quicker than the time it takes for one to tie their own shoelaces. Barker, tired of her life sitting at a news desk in her big city journalism gig, decides to upend her life and start anew by accepting a new assignment on the front lines of the war in Afghanistan. She leaves a boyfriend at home and foolishly thinks that the relationship will be there when she’s finished with her adventure. Of course, it’s pretty clear that isn’t going to happen. Instead, she starts a romance with a photographer (Freeman), spurns the advances of a lecherous Prime Minister (Alfred Molina, also very good here) and finds herself at odds with a fellow reporter (Margot Robbie).

Anyone looking for insights into what this experience was actually like on a day to day basis will be sorely disappointed. About the most we learn is that even American women must wear head scarves during the light of day there, and that the children scam tourists into giving them money. It’s a shame when one considers what a missed opportunity a film like this is and I think it’s safe to say that perhaps Fey should stick to strict comedy from here on out.

London Has Fallen (* ½) R

London Has Fallen, a sequel to the 2013 actioner, Olympus Has Fallen, certainly earns the distinction of containing the biggest number of laughs I’ve been witness to in a theater so far this year. Before I go any further I suppose I should clarify that none of the laughs that turn up in the film are intentional, serving to make London Has Fallen all the more distinctive, albeit in a non-flattering way. It’s very telling that this action opus turns out to be funnier than many of the supposed ‘comedies’ I’ve been forced to sit through in the first several months of 2016.

Succinctly put, London Has Fallen is ludicrous, both in its plot and in its execution. It asks us to believe that the world’s leaders—the ones that the movie’s screenwriters deem important enough to depict, at any rate—could be taken out by simply showing up at a state funeral in London. What’s worse is that the film paints all of the foreign heads of state with very broad strokes and chooses to turn them into grotesque stereotypes in the process. Think of the leader of Italy being depicted with a raging libido and you get the point.

Gerard Butler and Aaron Eckhart both return from the first film and it’s obvious it’s for the paycheck and not much else.

Gerard Butler in London Has Fallen

Eckhart really can’t be blamed for doing such things every now and again as he’s proven himself capable in films with some credibility but Butler seems to do nothing but these kinds of films and it’s frankly starting to wear thin.

As in the first film, Butler is once again Mike Banning, the secret service agent/best buddy of President Asher (Eckhart). As the new entry opens, Banning is apparently mulling over hanging up his position and trying something new, although the filmmakers never tell us what that something might be. Once Britain’s Prime Minister dies suddenly, and under mysterious circumstances that no one seems to be questioning, Asher asks Banning to accompany him to the state funeral. Once the president and his secret service man arrive, Pakistani terrorists of the most clichéd variety show up in disguise and manage to wipe out the majority of London in a matter of about five minutes, courtesy of some unconvincing CGI effects. Of course, the president and his second banana manage to escape or else we wouldn’t have a film. The rest of the film centers around the efforts to get the prez out of London and back to his home turf, as one might predict.

London Has Fallen is filled with great actors in supporting roles that are given little to nothing of consequence to do and it’s a shame. Here you have the likes of Morgan Freeman, Robert Forster and Jackie Earle Haley and all we can do is sit and think of superior films in which they’ve appeared. That’s a much better task than actually engaging in the silly shenanigans found in this film. 

Both of these movies are playing at the Carmike in Hickory and surrounding town.

10 Cloverfield Lane opens this Week, along with The Brothers Grimsby.

Questions or comments? Write Adam at filmfan1970@hotmail.com.

 

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