Director: Ang Lee
Screenwriter: Jean-Christophe Castelli, Ben Fountain (novel)
Cast: Joe Alwyn, Garrett Hedlund, Vin Diesel, Steve Martin, Kristen Stewart, Chris Tucker
Runtime: 110 mins
Genre: Drama, War
Review by Dave Griffiths
We’ve all heard of a movie that has suffered due to the fact that it was over-hyped. You know the kinds of films I’m talking about, ones that critics have seen already and have been raving about to the point where your expectations are so high that once you sit down the cinema you are expecting nothing less than a five star movie. Well that similar kind of thing has happened to critics with Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, the moment it was announced that director Ang Lee (Life Of Pi) was making a war film the whole of Hollywood started reporting that it would be a ‘definite’ Oscar winner. By the time I sat down in the cinema I was expecting the greatest movie ever made, and while Billy Lynn certainly isn’t that it’s also not the car crash of a film that some overseas critics have been describing it post media-screenings either.
Based on the novel by Jean-Christophe Castelli Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk centres around 19-year-old Billy Lynn (Joe Alwyn – The Sense Of An Ending) who returns to America a hero after he is involved in an heroic act saving his Sergeant (Vin Diesel – The Fast And The Furious) from being kidnapped by insurgents.
Still battling his own personal demons from the incident Billy’s short visit back to the States is completely different to what he expected. While he just want to rest-up his sister, Kathryn (Kristen Stewart – Twilight), tries to push him into not going to Iraq to ease her own guilt, a persistent film producer Albert (Chris Tucker – Silver Linings Playbook) wants to buy his story, a football team owner Norm (Steve Martin – The Pink Panther) is determined to make him and his squad part of his team’s halftime entertainment and Billy finds himself falling for a cheerleader named Faison (Makenzie Leigh – Gotham).
As far as social commentary goes Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk goes into territory that very few films have gone into over the years. To look at what happens to a young solider when they return home a hero from a war that the public aren’t really supporting. Many movies have explored the PTSD that some soldiers go through upon their return home but very few films explore topics such as the soldiers being used for PR machines, being thrust into sudden stardom and being used as ‘sex symbols’ for women who love that idea of being with a man in uniform.
The unfortunate thing about Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk is that it feels almost schizophrenic as a film. At times the film goes into deep territory and there are some brilliantly written scenes, such as the confrontation between Billy and Norm but then at other times the film’s dialogue borders on the kind of writing that you would expect to see on a bad television show. Some of the scenes between Billy and his Sergeant and also Billy and Faison are groan-worthy as the soppy dialogue spilling from the character’s mouths does not fit the dramatic nature of the film at all.
That bad dialogue also takes its toll on the actor’s performances as well. You get the feeling that Vin Diesel is eagerly anticipating the day that he gets a meaty role to work with, but he certainly doesn’t get that here. He suffers the same fate as Makenzie Leigh whose performance is severely hampered by the dialogue that she is given to work with…a pity because she is one of the brightest young talents going around. Acting wise the big winners out of this film are young Joe Alwyn who at times reminds you of a young Leonardo DiCaprio while Steve Martin surprises all as he turns his back on comedy for once and instead delivers a strong performance as a nasty football team owner.
Seeing the name Ang Lee anywhere near a film normally means that as an audience member you are about to watch a sensational movie but this time that isn’t the case as he manages to serve up a lukewarm dish with Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk