2016 Certificate: 15

Synopsis

Tina Fey stars in this comedy drama based on the adventures of Kim Barker, an office-based journalist who suddenly found herself reporting from frontline in Afghanistan. Plunged into a world of total chaos, Kim initially feels way out of her depth. But after making numerous allies, from brassy TV correspondent Tanya (Margot Robbie) and roguish photographer Iain (Martin Freeman) to her driver Fahim (Christopher Abbott) and Billy Bob Thornton's accommodating Marine chief, Kim soon finds herself addicted to life in the war zone. Taking their cue from Barker's memoir, Bad Santa writers-turned-directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa temper the conflict with comedy in the irreverent tradition of M*A*S*H.

Directors

  • Glenn Ficarra

  • John Requa

Cast

  • Tina Fey

  • Margot Robbie

  • Martin Freeman

  • Alfred Molina

  • Billy Bob Thornton

  • Josh Charles

  • Christopher Abbott

Review

Produced by Saturday Night Live supremo Lorne Michaels, directed by the creators of ​Bad Santa and starring comedy queen Tina Fey, this truth-based story of an American journalist in a foreign war zone was never going to be the next ​Killing Fields.

However, whilst following in the proud tradition of black humorists from Kubrick to Altman, this particular war cabinet treads a fine line between satire and glibness.

Using props as a character-defining shorthand, the film introduces Fey's Kim (here pointlessly renamed Baker) as a stagnating cable news producer, her life summed up by a grey office, a bottle of one-a-day supplements for the over-40s, and an exercise bike.

Unfulfilled and with a work-away boyfriend she rarely sees (Josh Charles), Kim volunteers to join the network's team in Kabul, where she is brought into the media fold by Margot Robbie's unfeasibly hot TV correspondent Tanya (all sass, cigarettes and lip gloss), and Martin Freeman's cheeky Scottish photo-journo Iain (camera, Celtic FC scarf, bottle of beer).

They call it 'the Kabubble', a giddyingly fatalistic world governed by a weird combination of sex, booze, and Islamic law, where a Western girl can party all night but has to cover her head when she leaves.

But no sooner has Kim had her "I can't do this" moment than she's out dodging bullets and winning hearts and minds with general Billy Bob Thornton's battle-hungry Marine outfit.

Before you can say "oorah", the wide-eyed greenhorn becomes an insatiable war junkie. Unfortunately, it takes her a little longer to realise the consequences of her increasingly gung-ho actions.

Committed and engaging yet never entirely convincing, Fey's performance reflects the film as a whole.

Factual or fictionalized, the way several situations pan out is - in the title's vernacular - pure Bravo Sierra (as epitomized by a scene that sees the TV-meltingly hot Tanya's crew blown to smithereens in an explosion while she emerges with a couple of dainty scratches).

The movie can also expect to take some flak for giving its two biggest indigenous roles to white Westerners, although Christopher Abbott of TV's Girls is hugely sympathetic as Kim's principled driver Fatim (Alfred Molina less so as a distinctly Carry On-ish Afghan minister).

Yet for all its trivialisations and clunking symbolism (this is a film which literally shows lambs going to the slaughter), the script lands a few solid blows for women's rights and mines a rich vein of humour, tossing up nuggets of both the morbid and deadpan variety.

It's a slick watch but, lacking the veracity of ​Jarhead or the audacity of ​M*A*S*H, this belongs in the same anti-war camp as ​The Men Who Stare At Goats. And who remembers them?

Elliott Noble