Monday, May 29, 2017

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

Year 9, Day 149 - 5/29/17 - Movie #2,644

BEFORE: Alfred Molina carries over from "Strange Magic" and gets me to something for Memorial Day.  OK, so maybe it's a Hollywood comedy and probably not on a par with "From Here to Eternity" or "The Great Escape", but at least it's got U.S. soldiers in it.  Probably.

I decided to spend most of the weekend binge-watching the new season of "12 Monkeys", because 5 episodes on Saturday and another 5 on Sunday, and that would cover all of Season 3, and I can start on "American Gods" later next weekend if most of my talk shows are in reruns - and I managed to free up a bunch of space on my upstairs DVR this way.  I also cleared most everything from the downstairs DVR (the one for movies) and if I start watching more Academy screeners and Netflix movies, maybe I can stay on top of it in the future and keep it from getting above 50% full.  Here's hoping.

THE PLOT: A journalist recounts her wartime coverage in Afghanistan.

AFTER: This film was adapted from the memoir of a reporter from the Chicago Tribune who was embedded in Afghanistan, so it's certainly not my place to say, "this seems unlikely" or "this probably couldn't happen this way" about any plot points here.  I'm just genuinely shocked, looking back, that embedding reporters to accompany military units during their actions was a thing that we did - it seems rather reckless in hindsight.  Couldn't these professionals have reported on the war without being so close to the action?

This film also makes the implication that danger is something akin to a drug, and once a reporter sees some military action, he or she might seek out greater and larger thrills, putting herself in more and more dangerous situations in order to chase down the news.  I wouldn't know about this either, I'm probably the furthest thing from an adrenaline junkie.  But that's where the story finds our reporter, Kim Baker, and once she lands in Afghanistan (the single reporters are given this great "chance" to advance through the ranks) we see her progress from a clueless rookie to (eventually) someone who knows all the local customs and can curse in Farsi.

She's hit on by the reporters from other countries, treated with disdain by the U.S. Marine General, and when her long-distance relationship starts to fade, takes the opportunity to allow her three-month assignment to go on for several years.  (Kind of like the war in Afghanistan itself.)  New challenges, new relationships, new excuses to party in the "ka-bubble" - but eventually there's a shift at home, when the war slides off the front page and her editors start to question why she's been there so long.  Meanwhile the competition between the reporters heats up, as they all need to prove their worth.

Now you may find, like I did, that the film's resolution was a little too pat, as all three major problems (Kim's status at her network, her strained relationship with the general and the kidnapping of a fellow journalist) are all resolved at once with the same plot point), but I suppose that's a minor quibble, perhaps I should be championing the simplicity of the denouement.  In its own way, this comes across as a modern-day "Catch-22" or "M*A*S*H", depicting the ridiculousness of war - and I'm sure there's ridiculousness to spare when you start examining the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And the end coda, where Baker visits a soldier she met shortly after arriving in Afghanistan back in the U.S., made this a perfect choice for Memorial Day.  OK, maybe it would have been better for Veterans' Day, but I'm often not watching films in November, so I'll take this as a win.

Also starring Tina Fey (last seen in "Sisters"), Margot Robbie (last seen in "The Big Short"), Martin Freeman (last seen in "Captain America: Civil War"), Billy Bob Thornton (last seen in "National Lampoon: Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead"), Christopher Abbott (last seen in "Martha Marcy May Marlene"), Nicholas Braun (last seen in "How to Be Single"), Stephen Peacocke, Sheila Vand, Cherry Jones (last seen in "Cradle Will Rock"), Josh Charles, Evan Jonigkeit, Scott Takeda, Sterling K. Brown, with a cameo from Soledad O'Brien (last seen in "Zoolander 2").

RATING: 6 out of 10 slaughtered lambs

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