It’s not really clear to me what this film is about, since it switches focus so many times. At first, it appears to be about a young woman needing a more challenging life and taking off to Afghanistan, trading her behind-the-scenes news production for investigative reporting. Suddenly, it’s culture shock both in terms of U.S. Marine life and of being in a Moslem country where Western women create sensation simply by walking down the street. Kim (Fey) is green and has much to learn to do her job and she’s a fast study. She makes good connections—with the General, Hollanek (Thornton) and with a government official, Sadiq (Molina)—as well as other reporters like Tanya (Robbie) and Iain (Freeman), although with the latter it’s a bumpy road.
In my opinion, the film dwells far too long on these events, which are often deafening, the dialog is unintelligible, and men are constantly objectifying women.
Then intrigue begins to settle in, and the story becomes much more interesting. We see the arc of the Kim-Tanya friendship, Kim’s break-up with a comfortable love, the start of a romance, and—probably most importantly—the seduction of exciting war times. In this, I was reminded of the Erik Poppe film, A Thousand Times Goodnight with Juliette Binoche and Kathryn Bigelow’s film, The Hurt Locker with Jeremy Renner. As noted in these and Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, war can produce an adrenaline rush as powerful as heroin, and not everyone resolves the issue in the same way.
During the last third of the film, it became so much more real and meaningful because it was about female relationships, circumstances that influence personal relationships about which the subjects are often unaware, and the successful, sometimes necessary, cunning in achieving one’s goals. A tender episode toward the end illustrates the healing power of talking about life-changing events and the gratifying discovery that there is nothing to be forgiven.
One of the best things about the film—along with Fey’s, Molina’s, and Thornton’s dramatic performances—is Nick Urata’s music. The pairing of the music with the cinematography by Xavier Grobet in some final scenes is truly poetic.
WTF—a film that takes a while, but eventually grabs you.
Grade: C+ By Donna R. Copeland