#REVIEW: “BILLY LYNN’S LONG HALFTIME WALK”
Review by Amanda Gilmore for Mr. Will Wong
Ang Lee has created an honest Film about what the realities of war are and what the media perceive them to be.
Billy Lynn (Joe Alywn) and his fellow soldiers have come back home to America for a victory tour. This comes after Lynn’s team, Bravo, is caught on camera in a harrowing battle in Iraq. Yet, the young soldier isn’t handling being back home so well, and neither are his comrades. The Film takes place at the final stop of the victory tour, where the Bravo team are apart of the Thanksgiving Halftime Show in Texas. As the day progresses, Lynn begins to battle his PTSD and what is expected of him by the media.
Ang Lee’s use of flashbacks to Lynn’s time at war and what he’s experiencing at the halftime show make for powerful story telling. During the halftime show, these soldiers aren’t treated like heroes. They are being talked to as if they don’t matter and bossed around like they’re children. The worst of it is when Hollywood comes knocking to make their battle into a cliched Movie. These scenes are contrasted with the reality the Bravo team faced in that battle. The battle changed them forever, and not necessarily for the better. Lee makes it clear through his skilled direction that the media are insensitive to the real heroes of the world, and what they actually experience. In result, he makes one of the most original and depressing PTSD War Films. Lee does this with the use of sound effects, perfect editing and jumps in time.
Quite simply, Joe Alywn is going to be a star. His ability to have drastic changes in emotion within seconds makes for a heart-wrenching Film experience. Because this is Alwyn’s first Film, the audience believes Lynn is real because he’s played by an actor never seen before. It gives an authenticity to the character that would never be achieved otherwise. Alywn also has an ability to transfer the Lynn’s emotions through the screen and to the audience. Chris Tucker plays a Hollywood cliche trying to make some money off of the soldiers story. Even though he’s a character that isn’t well-loved, Tucker makes him likeable. In a minor role, Kristen Stewart plays Lynn’s sister who is the one brining Lynn’s PTSD front and centre. Stewart pours her heart into this role. Her drive to show how important it is for Lynn to get help for his PTSD translates perfectly. Stewart makes this role the second-most important one in the Film.
Where this Film fails is in a storyline. Lynn falls for a cheerleader while at the Halftime show. The love interest has no importance to the script. If anything, it halts the important part. It seems to be thrown in there to give the audience relief to the heavy context the Film has. But, it doesn’t achieve much in doing that. Instead, it takes attention from the important message here of what war does to soldiers in battle and when they come home.
Overall, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk is going to have a strong effect on its audience. It’s a heartfelt story that will touch many. It may even change the thought process of many people who believe war is what they see depicted in Films and Television. Maybe this will be the Film that makes society realize we can never understand the realities of war until we are there ourselves.
Sony Pictures Canada release BILLY LYNN’S LONG HALFTIME WALK Friday, November 18, 2016 in 24FPS 2D format.