“Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” stars Joe Alwyn, Kristen Stewart, Chris Tucker, Garrett Hedlund, Vin Diesel, and Steve Martin. Released on November 11, 2016, the film is about an Army specialist who recounts his memories of the war and his family during the Dalles football game.
The film is directed by Ang Lee, who also directed films such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Hulk, Brokeback Mountain, and Life of Pi. It is based on the novel of the same name by Ben Fountain. I was originally planning on seeing Fantastic Beasts today before seeing this film, but since my cousin invited me to see it with him on Sunday, I decided to hold that off and give some of the other new releases a try first, starting with the latest war film from the visionary mind of Ang Lee. Before Billy Lynn, I only saw two films that Lee directed: Hulk and Life of Pi. Life of Pi is what got me interested in him because of how he combines the cinematic experience with good storytelling. That is one of the main reasons why I was looking forward to Billy Lynn, along with its recognizable cast, save for newcomer Joe Alwyn. But will those reasons be enough to get this film into this year’s Oscar race?
There were plenty of things that I thought were impressive in this film, such as the performances. The cast did a really nice job portraying their characters, especially Alwyn as the title character, even though it’s his first time acting in a major motion picture. Kristen Stewart also did a respectable job as Billy Lynn’s sister, Kathryn, who is concerned about his health. Despite appearing in a few scenes, Vin Diesel was a delight to watch as Shroom. He’s just that talented, even when he’s not talking about family and racing cars. Another thing that I really liked was the cinematography. There were plenty of scenes that I thought were filmed marvelously, such as the war sequence and the halftime show. Like Life of Pi, Ang Lee knows how to make us feel like we’re a part of the experience ourselves. Unfortunately, the way the story is told wasn’t as remarkable as the experience alone. The film basically focuses on the veterans having a good time watching the Thanksgiving football game, while Lynn flashes back to his time in Iraq and his visit with his family. There were a few ways that could’ve been incorporated in order to make the story more impactful. For starters, it would be the relationships between the characters, including Lynn and his comrades. I believe if they would’ve put more development on these relationships, I would’ve been able to connect more with these characters. I also think that the relationship between Lynn and Faison Zorn (played by Makenzie Leigh) could’ve been drawn out more. Another thing that I would like to see more of are the effects that the characters have after returning home from the war, such as having post-traumatic stress disorders. There were a couple of scenes that were a bit slow, but not by much.
Overall, despite a talented cast and its impressive cinematography, “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” favors cinematic experience over strong storytelling. Like I said before, there were plenty of ways that could’ve make the film more impactful in terms of character relationships and the effects that veterans have during and after the war in Iraq. Even though I did enjoy the experience myself, I believe that there has to be more than just having us, the audience, be in the middle of the action and on the football field with the veterans, and that’s something that Ang Lee should look into in the future. If you’re a fan of Lee’s other films, you might like this one a bit less. Other than that, it’s worth watching for the cast and the cinematography.