Kim Barker (Tina Fey) finds herself pressed into the foreign press corps when she’s faced with being ‘downsized’ or going into the field. Her experiences in the field, working with the Army, the natives, and other press workers in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom led to her book, The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the subject of Paramount’s film.
A fish out of water story always entertains – and so does one starring Fey. Her sense of humor and portrayal of courage under fire (whether it’s Date Night or here) suck the audience in, and set us up to see the story in ways that we might not otherwise. She’s certainly helped here by the hard-nosed (and ironic) portrayal of Billy Bob Thornton, as her Army liaison, as well as Margot Robbie as another female reporter and Martin Freeman as a Scottish photographer with whom she becomes entangled.
Watching the film, I was most struck by the way that Barker via Fey fights to make herself relevant, valuable, purposeful, etc. in a world that seems intent on rejecting her. While she’s a woman in a man’s world, her intention always seems to be reporting the story – she seems bothered when she stoops to levels that others use regularly to get a step ahead.
Barker’s bravery is remarkable; some might call it foolish! I was struck by the rush that she receives from pursuing the story, much like the sense that William James (Jeremy Renner) experiences in The Hurt Locker. We all chase something in our pursuit of ourselves, but in the case of Kim Barker, she had to reinvent herself half a world away. In the end, she’s better for it, through the bumps and bruises, and we appreciate her ironic take on how it all went down.