Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk
Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk is a bizarre, if not downright messy look at PTSD and Military bravado -- tackling wartime heroics with a lingering batch of depression that's both interesting, yet off-putting.
Director Ang Lee‘s latest wartime drama Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk is an interesting mess of a film, struggling to piece together a coherent story, despite starring many known names, such as Steve Martin, Garrett Hedlund, Chris Tucker, Vin Diesel and Kristen Stewart, while also introducing Joe Alwyn. Unfortunately, the star power does very little, while Lee’s visuals and storytelling methods keep Billy Lynn emotionally void, despite such emotional material.
Billy Lynn (Joe Alwyn) is a sudden war hero after footage of him coming to the rescue of his superior (Vin Diesel) goes viral. Suddenly, the worst day of his life becomes the best day of everyone else in America’s and now Billy is faced with the horrid pleasure of re-living those moments over and over as he and the rest of his squad tour America in hopes of inspiring and sharing their story.
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk is an interesting concept for a film, based on the book of the same name. It’s interesting because it approaches PTSD in a very strange way, partially acknowledging that it is a real thing that effects many soldiers returning home today, but also partially in a lazy way that uses it as a crutch for the rest of the film to stand on.
Billy is clearly a damaged young man that has seen more than enough war to leave him confused and vulnerable, yet the film’s story only focuses on the bad moments without much of a focus on the good.
It’s a troubling film to watch because it never deals with the situation or handles the pressure. It instead throws Billy to the wolves and wastes most of its running time on what-if scenarios that Billy keeps playing over and over in his head.
Yet the film is still a valuable watch for those that don’t truly understand how PTSD creeps its way into the lives of our beloved soldiers and how it lingers, long after an incident or event.
It also presents a twisted viewpoint on heroism and what some people think patriotism really is.
I’m not saying that Billy Lynn captures these moments and emotions perfectly or even paints a clear picture of what it’s trying to say, but I will say that Billy Lynn deserves points for trying to tackle such difficult source material. And it follows through until the very end, despite making the thematic choices that it does.
As a book, I’d imagine Billy Lynn is one fascinating read, but as a film it chugs along at a slow pace that relies too heavily on zoomed-up shots of both Billy’s friends and random strangers that try to act like they understand what Billy and his squad have gone through.
The film has been highly discussed from a technical standpoint for being one of the first films shot in 4K 3D and presented in 120 frames per second at very few locations around the world. Those that have seen it in this new groundbreaking format have commented saying that the film truly feels like an entirely different experience and that 120FPS might be the future of cinema.
But those like me that only had the chance to see the film in 2D at the traditional 24 frames per second are greeted with a visually odd film that relies far too much on slow motion shots and zoomed-up facial shots of characters as they spit out dialogue towards Billy.
It’s a disjointing feeling as the camera stiffly moves back and forth between zoomed-up close ups and random side shots of Billy as tears stream down his face and it honestly just doesn’t work, visually.
Ang Lee is known as a visual director that makes you feel with his images, yet Billy Lynn is a flat film that does not benefit from his usually-artistic eye.
Part of me believes that Lee got too caught up in the tech behind making the film. Perhaps he forgot that a good story, with rich characters make for a far better film than fancy 4K 3D sped up to 120FPS?
I’d love to see the film in its intended viewing format, but until that day comes I can only comment on what is widely available, which is the 2D 24FPS cut and the film as a whole.
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk is a random assortment of emotions and ideas, barely registering as anything more than a star-studded flop. Newcomer Joe Alwyn gives Billy a shy and depressed demeanor that doesn’t deserve much praise, while seasoned vets like Chris Tucker and Steve Martin simply show up to collect a check.
Vin Diesel and Garrett Hedlund attempt to extend their performances beyond pages on a script, but both lack both the charm and charisma to truly succeed.
The only real worthwhile performance comes from Kristen Stewart. She manages to give the film a balancing batch of emotions that at the very least try to conflict with the rest of the film’s washed-over feel.
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk unfortunately is a film that most will forget within a few weeks, while the rest of us movie buffs wish we could’ve witnessed the film in 120FPS, but are also debating with the idea of having to ever watch this film again, only to checkout the new format.