Thursday, November 24, 2016

Movie Review #525: "Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk" (2016)

Director: Ang Lee
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 57 minutes
Image Source
A group of Iraq war veterans known as Bravo team are regarded as heroes after videotape surfaces of them in a heroic effort to save a fallen fellow soldier. Back stateside, they are just about to finish their media tour during the halftime show of a professional football game on Thanksgiving, the day before they are to be deployed back to Iraq for another tour of duty.

"Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk" is directed by Ang Lee and is written by Jean-Christophe Castelli based on the novel by Ben Fountain. This film gained a lot of early notoriety based on some groundbreaking technical choices Ang Lee made while shooting the film. It is filmed at a high frame rate of 120 frames per second with 4K rendering and is meant to be seen in a 3D format. That being said, there is little chance the masses will be able to see it in such a format since only a handful of theaters in the entire country have the proper equipment to display this technology as it was shot. Since we are more than 100 miles from any theater with those capabilities, we saw this movie in regular ol' standard digital high definition that our local theaters use.

The focus of this film is on a group of soldiers known as the Bravo company. The team gained notoriety when a video of Billy Lynn, played by Joe Alwyn, attempting to save his sergeant's life went viral online. The Bravo company have returned stateside and are now on a media tour in an effort to drum up support for an otherwise unpopular war in Iraq in the early 2000's. Their tour culminates at the halftime show of the Thanksgiving day pro football game hosted by the not really but kind of look like the Dallas Cowboys. There, Bravo team will perform with Destiny's Child played by the kind of looks like from the back but not really Destiny's Child. Once the tour ends, the men will be redeployed to Iraq to serve out their tour of duty.

There is a bit of an underlying irony to "Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk" in that it juxtaposes the worst day of these soldiers' lives with the propaganda machine that exploits that pain to drum up support for armed combat in a country the US shouldn't have even been in in the first place. It also exposes those who espouse lives of heavy patriotism and their constant want to support the troops, but for their own selfish means. It also brings to light those who are gung-ho about the military and those in it, but fail to see past the uniform. These people aren't interested in the individual wearing the uniform, but simply what this uniform represents. This is most obvious with Billy Lynn's love interest Faison Zorn, played by Makenzie Leigh. Though she shows an attraction to Billy Lynn, it is clear that she loves the uniform, not the man wearing it. Unfortunately these subjects aren't examined all that well and are contained within a very messy shell.

There is a lot to be perplexed about when it comes to "Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk." Lee implements some odd directorial choices in his camera work, using ultra tight closeups of his actors that are off putting in the way they are shot. The acting is decent. Garrett Hedlund gives a standout performance, but newcomer Joe Alwyn feels like he's reading a script from a high school theater play production. Steve Martin is excellent, though the role he plays isn't one you'd typically associate with him. Some portions of the movie feel phony, disingenuous, and shoehorned in for dramatic effect, and also feel forced as well. The script is also severely lacking. In the end, this film winds up being mostly pedestrian affair from a director who could have gotten Oscar glory for such a story in a different year and with a different methodology. It's not at all emotional for such a powerful subject matter. This is a real let down.

My Rating: 4/10
BigJ's Rating: 5/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.2/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 43%
Do we recommend this movie: No.

No comments:

Post a Comment