In 2002, cable news producer Kim Barker (Tina Fey) decides to shake up her routine by taking a daring new assignment in Kabul, Afghanistan. Dislodged from her comfortable American lifestyle, Barker finds herself in the middle of an out-of-control war zone. Luckily, she meets Tanya Vanderpoel (Margot Robbie), a fellow journalist who takes the shell shocked reporter under her wing. Amid the militants, warlords and nighttime partying, Barker discovers the key to becoming a successful correspondent.
Out of the films in which I entered contests to see, this was the one I wanted to see the most and luckily enough for me, I got to see it. I am a big fan of Tina Fey ever since her days on Saturday Night Live. She is a great writer but for me the jury is still out on the acting. I haven’t seen too many of her films but in the ones I’ve seen, I never thought she stood out.
In this film, Fey plays a cable news reporter named Kim Barker. In order to change-up her life, she decides to take an assignment in the war zone of Kabul, Afghanistan. There she meets another reporter named Tanya Vanderpoel (Margot Robbie) who takes Kim under her wing. Through various militants, warlords, and partying, she learns what it takes to be a successful correspondent.
The film doesn’t take long to get started as Kim leaves for Afghanistan early on. This kind of goes against the main plot to start as it wasn’t immediately clear to me as to why she was leaving in the first place. This wasn’t too much of an issue for me. When we finally got to Afghanistan I thought it was very serviceable in its depiction despite feeling like it was on a smaller scale. That is understandable considering it’s filming location of Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Also this film is supposed to take place during the war but I found the film downplayed this, other than in a few scenes with Kim and her cameraman Tall Brian (Nicholas Braun) alongside marines led by General Hollanek (Billy Bob Thornton). I thought Thornton, in a criminally small role, had some great lines and he and Fey were good together but the emphasis was more on Kim and the other reporters’ camaraderie. That was fine as I enjoyed these moments and they were fun to watch as Fey and Robbie had good chemistry along with Martin Freeman who played a Scottish reporter named Ian MacKelpie with whom she later develops a romantic relationship which did not work as well for me since I liked them more as friends with Robbie’s Vanderpoel. They still had chemistry but it just seemed weird to me.
I thought Fey was great here as Barker handling all of the film comedic elements and surprisingly all the dramatic elements, more on those later. Fey made Barker feel real and relatable as you believed her during her initial fish-out-of-water phase as she had to both learn about Afghanistan and about being a war reporter but she did get over it surprisingly quickly. Her exchanges with Robbie and Freeman were also funny as well and what helped was their chemistry. I would have liked to have seen more of Robbie since the film shifted slightly towards Kim and Ian during the last half.
What also shifted during the last half (or maybe third) was the film’s tone. What started off as mostly a comedy took a more dramatic turn which felt different based on the first part. Some serious things happened which took the plot in this direction which did not work as well for me as it lost its comedic side. It would have been better for me if it introduced more drama early on so the shift would not have felt as sudden.
Overall, this film didn’t seem to sure of what it wanted to be plot-wise but was still somewhat entertaining to watch thanks to good performances by Fey, Robbie, and Freeman.