Review Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk: After a succesful documented tour to Al-Ansakar Canal in Iraq during 2004 U.S invasion, the second unit known as the Bravo Squad led by Sarge David Dime (Garrett Hedlund) returns to the country as national heroes. The squad is brought for nationwide promotional tour and the country is showering the surviving members of the unit, especially the war hero Specialist William ‘Billy’ Lynn (Joe Alwyn) with praises and congratulations.
Several hours before their second tour, a national conglomerate has invited them to a football game where they’ll be honored during the halftime entertainment, which presenting the famous Destiny’s Child. Unbeknownst to most of them, this finest hour might be the hardest, the most crucial moment where Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk takes its time.
Originally shot and intended to project on 120 fps in 3D at 4K HD resolution (although other conversed versions are also available), this has become Ang Lee’s most ambitious project to date; however, for Ang Lee, updated technology isn’t intended for merely gimmick, since he urges to use them as a keypoint to storytelling—an enhancer. Yet, in Billy Lynn’s case, those who expect the this adaptation of 2012 novel of the same title to be a visually provoking war bonanza should be disappointed; because it’s never been a battlefield film, Billy Lynn’s is a story of reconciliation—a contemplative story of war commercialization wrapped in PTSD drama and series of flashbacks.
Ang Lee keeps the focus on the titular character’s state of mind prior to another tenure to Iraq, which even he doubts about it. Intertangled in series of flashbacks, Billy Lynn’s attempts to unearth the titular hero’s motivation in dabbling into the deadly war: his own sister (Kristen Stewart), who ironically challenges the war itself. Simultaneously, it unravels how the war has scarred him for life and shaped him into the person he has become—thanks to Sgt. Breem (Vin Diesel). At the same time, Billy Lynn’s attempts to pose an actual satire about how people’s self-claimed ‘gratitude’ has grown into something bigger than themselves—an urgency to exploit this young unit into a money-making star.
While Ang Lee’s saintly purpose is exceptional and his direction (given limited takes he had during the production) is solid, the actual film suffers from unfocused storytelling. Muddled in casual flashback and ‘special’ flashback to the battlefield marked with astonishing editing, Billy Lynn’s gets lost in contemplation. What’s left of it is a depressed brotherhood story, which sometimes leaves the titular character into isolation.
The use of high frame rate picture ends up being the most questionable decision since it isn’t universally available. In accommodating that treat, the film is adorned with engaging cinematography and special treatments. That requires lots of close-up shots as well as overly focused pictures which makes the characters seem separated from the background (I wonder it is intended to create lifelike effect if projected in the correct format). For viewers of the regular version projected in regular cinema, those screen-adaptation feels overly flat and mostly out of place; it provides nothing but abundant facial expressions.
The drama, which becomes Billy Lynn’s most poignant presentation, is sometimes feeling flat; Ang Lee’s direction still shines. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk’s saintly message about war commercialization is only partially emanated. The rest of it is drowned in Ang Lee’s filmmaking ambition which fails to make an immediate impact.
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (2016)
Drama, War Directed by: Ang Lee Written by: Jean-Christophe Castelli based on novel by Ben Fountain Starred by: Joe Alwyn, Garrett Hedlund, Kristen Stewart, Chris Tucker, Vin Diesel Runtime: 110 mins Rated R