"To recap: The militants were gaining strength along the border with Afghanistan and staging increasingly bold attacks in the country’s cities. The famed Khyber Pass, linking Pakistan and Afghanistan, was now too dangerous to drive. The country appeared as unmoored and directionless as a headless chicken. And here was Sharif, offering to find me 'a friend'. Thank God the leaders of Pakistan had their priorities straight."
There was something about the trailer for Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (2016) that immediately piqued my interest. The story about a war zone reporter, a female war zone reporter, played by Tina Fey. That could be good! Then I realized it was based on a book. A non fiction book! I bought the audiobook a second later and I just finished it.
It was fantastic.
The book is called The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and it's written by Kim Barker. The quick description goes: "A true-life Catch-22 set in the deeply dysfunctional countries of Afghanistan and Pakistan, by one of the region’s longest-serving correspondents. "
Of course they play up the broad comedy in the trailer. They play songs from Missy Elliott and Elle King, and focus on the drinking and the partying. They're trying to appeal to the lowest common denominator; we've got to fill those seats come opening weekend.
But I really hope the movie also includes the darker aspects of the book. The many moments of doubt, the horrific war stories, like the time when Kim puts her hand on a railing after an attack on Benazir Bhutto, only to discover that it's coated in human remains.
I also hope the film includes some of the politics and her musings on the different cultures. With clever observations, and a few stories about her personal experiences, Kim Barker illuminates the conflicts and the doomed interference by the international community in a way I personally haven't experienced before. I learned more about the conflict in Afghanistan, and the position of Pakistan in the region, in this book than I did watching the news for past 10 years. The book even illuminated recent events for me, even though it was written years before they took place.
Looking at the trailer there are images that suggest these topics will be covered, but whether they take up as much room as they do in the book remains to be seen. At least they have Tina Fey playing the lead role. This is perfect casting! She's going to nail Kim Barker's dry, self-deprecating humor effortlessly. She's the one element that gives me the most faith in the project.
I hope Whiskey Tango Foxtrot will be a really fun and interesting film, much like the book was, but if it turns out that they didn't get it right in the film, I highly recommend going back to the original source.