Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (2016) – movie review

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Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk follows Billy and his comrades as they’re paraded around a Dallas stadium before they perform at halftime with Destiny’s Child. We follow their night at the stadium as well as witness flashbacks from the squad’s time in Iraq.

If I’m going to compliment anything here, it would probably be a few frames near the end when Billy is remembering flashes from the battle he endured in Iraq, where parts of the screen are actually blacked out and visually assaulting on purpose. Ang Lee does know how to break the audience’s perception of the frame to good effect as also seen in Life of Pi.

He also knows how to make the audience feel uncomfortable on purpose. It’s not a lack of comfort stemmed from a bad film as much as it is an assault of comfort during a scene in which the character’s comfort is indeed being assaulted.

I would also like to give good mention to the performances of Kristen Stewart (who’s been successfully shrugging off the stench of Twilight with recent credits) and… Chris Tucker?

Yeah. Chris Tucker. Someone who I would normally describe as ‘annoying’ or ‘sour’ in film is actually a highlight for a drama and isn’t annoying or sour. Huh.

Those are really the only things I can fully compliment in Halftime Walk as everything else is either “Eh” or “Not working”.

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The story itself has plenty of potential with it’s limited time-space, unknown lead actor and great concept however what we witness doesn’t deliver on that potential.

I would like to show you now, the IMDb synopsis for this film;

19-year-old Billy Lynn is brought home for a victory tour after a harrowing Iraq battle. Through flashbacks the film shows what really happened to his squad – contrasting the realities of war with America’s perceptions.

-IMDb

Right, now this “contrasting” really only happens during one scene. There are snippets along the way but not enough to allow the word “contrast”.

If Halftime Walk actually did follow this synopsis and focused on the juxtaposition of perceptions and reality, I feel there could’ve been a lot more to admire. Instead, the film focuses more on Billy’s newfound love for a cheerleader at the stadium, the squad trying to get a movie made about their efforts, Billy’s relationship with his sister and debating whether or not he should desert.

Now these sub-stories also have the potential to make an interesting film (perhaps if it followed a real-time structure in the vein of 12 Angry Men or High Noon) however the film doesn’t deliver on that potential either.

  1. The love story doesn’t have any conflict to obstruct it – so not much interest in that.
  2. We don’t particularly care if the squad gets their movie made or not.
  3. Billy’s relationship with his sister is interesting in a way but mostly due to Kristen Stewart’s performance rather than the script.
  4. And Billy debating whether or not he should desert is only touched at a few select moments – not enough to be impacting.

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As far as direction goes, Ang Lee remains one of the most accessible directors which can be good and bad.

I believe that he directs mainly for the ease (or unease) of the audience. So in scenes where we’re supposed to feel uncomfortable, we feel uncomfortable and in scenes where we’re supposed to feel comfortable, I think we feel comfortable?

I use “think” because I can’t remember a scene where I felt comfortable. Perhaps they’re all meant to feel uncomfortable and if so, well done Ang, it worked. However I didn’t pay to feel unease.

Despite a successful (I think?) job by director Ang Lee and two admirable performances by Kristen Stewart and Chris Tucker, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk does not deliver on its potential and instead delivers a collection of sub-stories we don’t care about and promised juxtaposition with not much juxtaposed.

What did you think of Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk? Is that title too long? Is Chris Tucker actually annoying or is he just a great actor?

Whatever your thought, leave your comment below, sign up to this blog on the side and don’t forget to follow my Instagram page for foreign versions of movie posters.

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