The first trailer I saw for Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk made me cringe a bit. I assumed this was going to be a mediocre film that relied on patriotism to fill the seats. It’s not that at all, well at least it’s not really all that patriotic. The film actual seems to poke at the issues of the war and the view civilians have of the soldiers. There are some definite interesting elements especially some of the movie meta content, but something still feels missing. I give Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk the Decent Watch rating.
Billy Lynn (Joe Alwyn) is a 19-year-old soldier who has been brought back stateside for a victory tour after his squad’s battle in Iraq was captured by a news camera. He appears to be suffering from some form of PTSD and keeps flashing back to that battle while preparing to be part of a halftime show. The big question Billy is faced with by his sister is whether he should go back to Iraq with his squad or see a therapist to potentially be relieved of duty.
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk is directed by Ang Lee. The film grabbed some big names for some relative smaller parts. Kristen Stewart plays Billy’s sister, Vin Diesel plays a sergeant, Steve Martin plays a Jerry Jones type character, and Chris Tucker plays a movie producer trying to sell their story to a studio. The bravo squad is a mix of younger actors and relatively brand new Alwyn. To me, the big highlights of the film were him and Garrett Hedlund. Their performances really stood out and I think that was intentional.
Their story being sold to a film studio was an interesting storyline in the film. It plays a factor in the movie we are actually watching. Chris Tucker even comments on Billy’s attraction to a cheerleader saying something along the lines of every movie needs a love story. He later says a studio wanted to focus on just Dime (Garrett Hedlund) and Lynn, which this film sort of did.
Movie talking about the movie inside the movie…meta movie
That arc has a lot of meta elements and definitely plays on the idea of America’s perception of the soldiers and the war. The film makes a lot of points and has some odd things happen to the heroes. A crew member picks a fight with them on the middle of the field. They are yelled out for throwing a football around on the field before the game starts. Other times, they are regarded with much heroism and Billy even gets bombarded with people wanting to connect with him before the game. Everyone seems to want a piece of the soldiers, but only when it serves the others well.
Billy’s family is in turmoil over the war. He was even forced to join the military after vandalizing his sister’s ex-boyfriend’s car in exchange for the dropping of the charges. However, the family is barely shown and the turmoil doesn’t really get explored. That’s where the film feels weak overall. It’s not really clear exactly what it wants to say. The messages are there, but none of them feel particularly fleshed out enough to make it the point of the film. It’s disappointing that a film dealing with real issues with soldiers and war doesn’t seem to know exactly what it wants to say.
A higher frame rate was used for this film
I should point out that I didn’t get to see this film in the 120 frame rate that it is boasting. However, I’m not sure what that would add to the film. The war sequences are few and not all that impressive. Most of the film is shot tight and is just people talking so I don’t know what the big deal would be. The high frame rate isn’t available in most markets, but I’d love to hear if it felt like it made a difference in the film.
Billy Lynn’s wasn’t bad at all. It just didn’t’ succeed in really saying anything clearly. There is a lot to think about though and those things are topics we should consider. How we treat the soldiers that are fortunate enough to come home is important. The seriousness of PTSD and the importance of family both by blood and forged in battle are compelling. The tropes we often see in war films that get brought up in this movie are valid. Yet, there is just something missing.