Sunday, May 29, 2016


Kim, a copy writer for a New York based news service is deemed worthy of a frontline post as she is among the few available staff still unattached. She takes the opportunity to change her life and heads to Afghanistan in the wake of the Coalition incursion where she is rapdily inducted into the toughness of military reporting and the emotional steam-valving of the media back in Kabul.

She becomes part of the Kabubble, the live-fast-die-whenever fellowship. When she is asked for her motivation to come to this violent realm she tells a story of how she felt she was stagnating. Her anecdote is smirkingly described as white lady and she admits it. Whatever the cause, however came the first sharp taste she soon uses the phrase "I need a hit" to mean both a high profile story and a dose of adrenaline. The Kabubble is all about supply and demand.

This is a well told story that shares some cousinship with Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker though with understandably less white-knuckling. What fills the gaps here is not the looser tension of that film expressed in macho bouting but with wit and a kind of comedy of manners under fire. While this makes for a perfectly credible approach and a decent movie it also forms the chief point of resistance for any viewer even slightly versed in the career of its star Tina Fey.

The scene in the news room establishing the reason for Kim's deployment turns on a joke about attachment, corporate culture and a threat to life and limb. It's a funny joke but it feels like a diluted joke from 30 Rock or Kimmy Schmidt. It takes a few scenes for this to clear but any fan of those shows will have to do some quick negotiating with this movie to avoid disappointment.

It would be a shame if that happened too often as the seriousness underlying this tale is weighty and well played. Fey's performance is nuanced and serious and triumphs against her movie's early attempts to sell an Altmanesque satire on the Afghanistan conflict and its reportage (nice exchange over that word in the dialogue).

Alfred Molina's Afghan minster might be brushed a little broadly. Martin Freeman's Scottish veteran reporter might remind us of an earlier Oliver Stone caricature. Margot Robbie's ambitious hot Brit might recall any number of tokenistic characters. Have we not seen Billy Bob Thornton's gruff field officer a little too often in the last few decades? All of these, though, bring enough lift to let the aisle jaffas roll under them without taint.

But that's the thing. Watch the performance. Follow the character. She develops and the trek is not an easy one. Allow the satirical, arch, cynical tones that fly around like ricochets their due but keep your eye on the centre and keep your head. Fey is funny, frequently, but she's good at that and always has been. Don't get fixed on it, though, it's not Fey, it's her character. This is not Liz Lemon does the War on Terror, it's much better.

No comments:

Post a Comment