Taking inspiration from the book/memoirs of an international journalist, this American comedy drama uses war as a backdrop and gives it, in places, a biting edge but doesn’t seem to dare take a further step in accounting the horrors of Afghanistan during the troops placement there.
Sick of her desk job, Kim Baker (Tina Fey) grabs the opportunity to go on an assignment to Afghanistan. There she meets another journalist; Tanya Vanderpoel (Margot Robbie) who helps Kim acclimatise to the Kabul life, or the ‘Kabubble’ as they take to calling it. Kim stays longer than expected and begins getting used to the environment with the added help of photographer Iain MacKelpie (Martin Freeman).
It feels like a long film, which isn’t a great thing to be kicking off with. The 112 minute run-time could have been okay to focus on the grittier side of realities both soldiers and Afghan people faced but it spends too long with Kim and her limited view on the subject. I only began really liking the movie as it got close the end. It takes Kim going back to New York and gaining an understanding of actions she’s taken and her new course of action to help the plot gain any real drive.
Glenn Ficarra and John Requa direct films as a pair and have the slicker ‘Focus’ under their belt, which is a silly comparison but it shows they know how to keep pace and style up whereas this movie lagged in places and is generally quite a pedestrian looking feature. There’s no special treatment that makes the dangerous location of the story feel more worrying. Even some hand held camera may have helped but aside from the in veil head camera Fey wears, the film tries to be realistic and light-hearted but falls short of both.
I liked where they tried going with it, the basing of the real memoirs and what the actual Kim saw and reported is tinged with a comedic twist. As they joke and laugh at Kim when she’s covered up so the men don’t look at her, the attempt at humour feels ill placed. The pairing of Fey and Freeman helps the film though and the disjointed harmony they share is amusing and sentimental. There’s a sure dryness to the script and it works in most places but they should have been more serious too.
Tina Fey is sharp and straight talking as her character. It’s almost a fascinating achievement as she goes a while being dislikable for the decisions and life risking choices she makes to get news scoops. Fey gladly acts seriously which only draws more attention to the fact the movie isn’t as grounded as it should be. Martin Freeman has a convincing Scottish accent and is an equal match to the sharp, dry playing of Fey. Margot Robbie is a vaguely arrogant yet fun-loving bundle of energy, she plays the sneakier side to her reporter character well to make you dislike her, which is definitely a fascinating achievement. I liked the performance from Alfred Molina a lot, it’s a fun look at the strict ways of a government figure and he pulls off that manner well.
It is Fey and Freeman that provide the drama and heart to a film that unfortunately doesn’t take a brave leap in being more than just an American’s viewpoint and journey.