Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

Directed by Academy Award-winning director Ang Lee, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk is a rather unique war drama that disappointedly falls short of its lofty ideals and creative story structure. Based on the critically acclaimed 2012 novel written by longtime Dallas resident Ben Fountain, the film follows a young soldier named Billy Lynn, portrayed by Joe Alwyn in his first feature film, who is being celebrated as a hero at a football game in Texas. It largely takes place in real time as Billy and his fellow soldiers in Bravo Squad participate in a Thanksgiving Day halftime show for a NFL team clearly based on the Dallas Cowboys. As he is essentially being used as a patriotic prop alongside the pop group Destiny’s Child, he experiences vivid flashbacks to his time serving in the Iraq War where he was credited with saving other soldiers’ lives. The movie juxtaposes the horrors of war felt by many servicemen with the extravagance and frivolity of a highly commercial American sporting event. Although the spectators, including the wealthy team owner who is based on Jerry Jones and played by Steve Martin, speak words of praise for the military, their actions show a deeper cynicism in which soldiers are taken advantage of in pursuit of self-interest. For instance, Martin’s character unabashedly undervalues the soldiers by offering to pay them very little for the rights to their story to be used in a film. Over the course of the movie, Billy also must deal with his distraught sister, played by Kristen Stewart, who urges him to leave the army. By raising such issues, the film conveys the struggles that many in the military experience on a daily life. Unfortunately, the largely lackluster script and contrived acting performances do not do justice to the emotionally powerful source material. Overall, I found it to be a movie full of potential that was never fully able to overcome its shortcomings.

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