Hello devoted fans of The Tara Chronicles (AKA, my mom).
I’ve decided to start writing film and book reviews as I make my way throughout 2016. This is a continuation of a project I completed at the end of 2014 where I gave a list of the novels I read throughout the year, a brief summary of each, and a rated number out of ten with ten being good and one being terrible.
This will be my first film review and I’m not sure how to do this since I’ve never reviewed a film before, so I’m going to break it down into sections: plot, characters/ character development, cinematography, soundtrack, acting and use of actors and actresses, realism (i.e. could this happen?) and overall experience.
Plot – 8.5/10
Without giving too much of the film away, WTF is a film about a journalist in NYC who decides she’s in a rut and makes a very sudden decision to become a war reporter when her news agency tells her it is an option. This all takes place in the early-mid 2000’s in Afghanistan, right around the time war breaks out in Iraq.
I have the benefit of having experience with journalism and the journalism industry and I know that from that standpoint, this story was incredibly well-told and dramatic without being over-the-top (see The Newsroom if you want that kind of non-stop drama and bureaucratic bullshit… not to say that The Newsroom isn’t also amazing in its own way).
I found the plot to be exciting and at times very humorous, which was a decent way to handle a complex story that covers a war. The story was told tactfully and respectfully, and the writing was superb in my opinion. It showed Afghanistan in a very real and terrifying way that showcased how human emotions that western women (or people in general) would naturally showcase when put in a similar situation.
Characters – 9/10
Kim Barker is the film’s protagonist, and her development is drastic as the film progresses. She goes from a shy-yet-mouthy copy writer for TV who desperately wants to return to NYC to be with her boyfriend to an independent badass who ends up rescuing one of her friends, possibly saving his life.
What was interesting was to see how the feminist traits of Barker also develop throughout the film. She begins her Afghanistan coverage with very little to say about the way women are treated in Afghanistan (even saying to her Afghan male friend at one point, “Look I get it. You’re into mysterious women who dress like Ikea bags” at one point). She slowly starts to realize just how badly women are treated after several instances lead to her accidentally becoming lost at night without her headscarf. After this, she begins coverage of a local girls school that had been firebombed. The film concludes with her turning to her male friend and asking him how his twins were doing. When he tells her that “the boy is very strong” she replies, “I bet the girl is strong too”.
Cinematography – 7/10
This film had a lot of unique shots that were risky and graphic to film, but they covered them in a unique and satisfying way. One example I can think of is when Barker is trying to record a standup when she starts cursing after discovering a burned and dismembered hand at her feet. It was meant to shock the audience in a way that would not over-dramatize the event, which to Barker’s character would have been considered almost “normal” at that point.
I wish desperately that the film had done more with the beautiful “oh my god, this place is beautiful” shots, but the ones that were included were great. With Afghanistan being the beautiful country that it is though, I wish the audience was able to see more of it.
Scenes were instead set using camera tricks such as filming coffee pots with Arabic writing on the side to remind the audience of the setting. This is an old trick that many screenplay writers do, but it’s still effective.
Soundtrack – 9/10
Maybe I’m giving this category such a high score because I’m a sucker for early 2000’s music, but all of the songs included gave me major nostalgia.
I found the party music to be appropriate for the time period, the karaoke song to be hilarious (“Take on Me” by a-ha) and the song made for the serious marine raid when they were rescuing a kidnapped photojournalist to be a unique and beautiful choice because it put the viewer on edge just the right amount. If I recognized the song, I would include it here, but I unfortunately didn’t.
Acting – 8.5/10
Tina Fey played the resourceful and intelligent protagonist and I must say this is my favourite film of hers since Mean Girls. It had the infamous feminist undertones that Fey is famous for partaking in with films, and it really showed the elasticity of her acting abilities.
Martin Freeman is infamously a hilarious and witty bastard in real life (well, from what I’ve read) and I’m so happy that he finally, finally, has a role that fits him like a glove. He plays Barker’s Scottish friend/ lover Iain McKelpie, a womanizing douche who loves to use and abuse women… or so he seems. I don’t want to give too much away, but I really wanted to mention his character in the “character development” category earlier. That’s all I’m going to say.
Oh and also, his Scottish accent is amazing.
And last but not least, we get to the reason why this category doesn’t have a perfect score: Margot Robbie. There was nothing wrong with her performance except, well, her character was pointless. POINTLESS.
Robbie plays Barker’s “frienemy” (friend/ enemy) Tanya Vanderpoel. She is the complete epitome of what this film is NOT about, and is setting women back about a million years.
Example 1) The first thing she does is tell Barker that she’s a “six” in America, but a “9.5” in Afghanistan, implying that women are only good reporters/ well heard of if they are pretty.
Example 2) She is constantly undermining Barker’s character. Constantly. Even though she pretends to be a friend (Mean Girls flashback?)
Example 3) Spoiler alert: she tries to steal Barker’s job from her. Instead of showing women supporting each other in a time of humanitarian crisis, she decides to be a bitch and steal the only other female reporter’s job. Because a war obviously didn’t have enough conflict for the directors; they wanted to see a catfight too.
This character was pointless and Robbie’s acting was easily forgettable alongside that of her coworkers’.
Realism – 10/10
Finally, a movie about journalism that gets it right.
Now, I still haven’t seen Spotlight (which I now fully intend to do after watching the Oscars this past Sunday) but I’m so happy that 2015/ 2016 seems to be the year of the journalists. Maybe I’m just biased, but I like movies revolving around professions I know a lot about.
From a journalism standpoint, this movie is dead-on. All of the technical terms used, the action, the immediate halt of partying shown at the beginning of the film because a bomb had just gone off, etc.
However, this film is based on a true story, so I don’t want to spend too long on this category.
Overall Experience – 9.5/10
I loved this film and I am recommending it to everyone I know. It was witty, hilarious, written and entertaining. I never found myself drifting off or losing track of the plot line.
It was just very, very well-done overall.
So that’s it for my first ever film review! If you have any recommendations for a film or novel for me to review, please leave a comment below. Check out Whiskey Tango Foxtrot if you haven’t already!