February 11, 2017


Starring Joe Alwyn, Kristen Stewart, Chris Tucker, Garrett Hedlund, Vin Diesel, Steve Martin, Ismael Cruz Cordova, Ben Platt, Arturo Castro, Makenzie Leigh, Tim Blake Nelson. Directed by Ang Lee. (2016, 113 min). 

Being an avid football fan, I perked up a bit when NFL stars Richard Sherman and J.J. Watt appeared in a scene about halfway through this film. Sherman even opened his mouth to speak without embarrassing himself. And that's the problem with Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk. Its most interesting scene should not be a gratuitous cameo.

For a film directed by Ang Lee and preceded by an emotionally charged trailer that practically screamed "bring your hankies," Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk is surprisingly uninvolving.

The premise is solid. Billy Lynn (Joe Alwyn) and his Army unit, dubbed Bravo Squad, try to get their injured sergeant, Virgil Breem (Vin Diesel), out of harm's way during a firefight in Iraq. Breem dies, but since the incident was caught on camera, they become national heroes stateside and are slated to be honored during the glitzy halftime show at a football game in Dallas. These guys are treated like celebrities by the media, corporate fat cats and Hollywood agents. Lynn appears bewildered by all the attention, apparently still shell-shocked from the incident in Iraq (which we witness through numerous flashbacks) and growing silently resentful of those trying to capitalize on the tragedy of Breem's death.

"Dude...was that you?"
Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk sees Lee once-again pushing technical boundaries, though the ballyhooed (and controversial) increased frame rate is lost on standard Blu-Ray. But unlike the aesthetically-arresting Life of Pi, one must question his efforts to break new visual ground with a film like this, which should be more of an emotional journey than a visual one. Instead, despite Lynn appearing on the verge of tears in nearly every scene, the film doesn't resonate much, meandering from one scene to another without really having anything profound to say about the situation or any of its characters.

Unquestionably, Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk is skillfully made and nice to look at, and that alone might make it worth checking out once. From a dramatic standpoint, however, it is a major disappointment.


FEATURETTES: "Into Battle and Onto the Field: Stepping Inside Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk"; "Assembling a Cast"; "Recreating the Halftime Show"; "The Brotherhood of Combat"

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