(directors: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa; screenwriters: Robert Carlock, based on the book The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan by Kim Barker; cinematographer: Xavier Grobet; editor: Jan Kovac; music: Nick Urata; cast: Tina Fey (Kim Baker), Margot Robbie (Tanya Vanderpoel), Martin Freeman (Iain MacKelpie), Alfred Molina (Ali Massoud Sadiq), Christopher Abbott (Fahim Ahmadzai), Billy Bob Thornton (General Hollanek), Nicholas Braun (Tall Brian ), Stephen Peacocke (Nic), Sheila Vand (Shakira Khar ), Evan Jonigkeit (Specialist Coughlin), Fahim Anwar (Jaweed), Josh Charles (Chris), Cherry Jones (Geri Taub); Runtime: 111; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Lorne Michaels, Tina Fey, Ian Bryce; Paramount; 2016)

Tina Fey is fine as real-life Afghanistan and Pakistan reporter Kim Baker. The rest of the movie is not so fine.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The former SNL star comedian Tina Fey is fine as real-life Afghanistan and Pakistan reporter Kim Baker. The rest of the movie is not so fine, as it seems flat as if it’s a made for cable movie. This is Fey’s best movie role, which might not say too much. The irreverent satirical comedy is loosely based on Kim Barker’s brutally frank memoir about covering the war as The Chicago Tribune’s South Asia bureau chief from 2004 to 2009. Her very funny book was entitled The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The uneven screenplay is superficially written by Robert Carlock. The movie co-stars Martin Freeman as a Scottish newspaperman, Margot Robbie as a fellow female reporter and Alfred Molina as a corpulent Afghan official. Co-directors Glenn Ficarra & John Requa (“Focus”/”Crazy, Stupid, Love”) try to keep it clever, but there are not too many laughs and the politics is vacuous.

In 2003, Barker is a copy writer for a secondary video news outlet. Her opportunistic editor realizes “Iraq 2” is in the works and gets the unmarried Barker to volunteer to be assigned there. Baker refers to it as the “forgotten war.” Covering the conflict out of Kabul, she’s assigned a bodyguard, Nic (Stephen Peacoke), and a local “fixer”, Fahim (Christopher Abbott). While learning on the job about the cultural differences in that part of the world and how to do local interviews, her job doesn’t warm up to her until her first embed, in a combat zone, with a USMC outfit commanded by Billy Bob Thornton, when there is live ammo flying overhead. The lady is thrilled by the action, the danger and in the military operation of riding in choppers. From hereon Barker becomes addicted to her front-line war reporting job, as the NY Times reviewer of her book stated: “she’s addicted to the adrenaline rush of war.”

The pic keeps busy telling of her affair with the Martin Freeman photographer character and how this assignment helped her find herself, but the pic becomes too jokey and lame to take seriously. That is not good, because Barker wanted her feminism awareness, her mental growth and her reporting ability to be viewed as serious even if she acts clownish at times. The pic also changes her job description from print journalist to cable news reporter. Don’t ask me why.

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