Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk
A Review By Ben Hunter
1½ Out Of 5 Stars 


Not only did director Ang Lee strike out, it’s not even worth catching the highlights on the news the next day, let alone actually going to the ballpark.  


Remember when Bush 43 was president and everyone was so hostile over the Iraq war?  A time when The Cowboys were still revered as “America’s Team” and Beyoncé was the front man in Destiny’s Child?  But we were all wondering when she was finally going to break free and do her own thing as lead singers typically do.  Well, director Ang Lee (Life of Pi, Brokeback Mountain, Hulk, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), brings this to the forefront again, reminding me why my sister annoyed the living daylights out of me with Destiny’s Child albums on repeat back then, reliving those songs all over again, in his latest: Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk.  

During the war, 19 year old Billy Lynn (Joe Alwyn) was apart of the Bravo Squad, an eight man infantry type fighting unit that gets caught in The Battle of Al-Ansakar Canal.  Squad leader Dime (Garrett Hedlund) orders the unit to fall back and take cover.  Yet, in a reflexive manner, Billy risks his life for exposed team member Shroom (Vin Diesel) and fights off Iraqi advances.  Fox News happens to capture the experience in a dangerous endeavor and the Bravo Squad is hailed as a majestic squad.  This earns them a seat in the hearts of Americans when they return as we take seat for a big Thanksgiving Football extravaganza for The Cowboys.  Our Bravo Boys are thus featured in the halftime performance with Destiny’s Child (at least the backsides of body doubles appearing as Beyoncé and her girls).  Their agent Albert (Chris Tucker) negotiates with Cowboys Executive Norm (Steve Martin) about turning their experience into a cinematic one.  

Joe Alwyn as Billy Lynn in Ang Lee's latest since his Oscar win. 
So much fame and attention for doing what we admire them for.  However, Billy starts having flashbacks to the traumatic experience.  PTSD as bright lights, sudden movements, and rowdy gestures trigger moments of war that make the walking experience of the halftime show a long “walk”.  
It’s not the fact that Kristen Stewart was apart of this film, as the concerned and protective older sister who just wants her little brother back.  I could relate, my sister, the Destiny’s Child one, was the same way, “no one can bother my brother, that’s my job” kind of relationship.  Though still, it is Kristen Stewart, let’s not just brush that under the rug.  It’s not the fact that multiple celebrities have a stake in this that could’ve been just as fine with no names (though no one would see the film).  I mean, it is Ang Lee, a veteran director in town.  It’s none of that.  It’s the fact that none of this made any sense!  It’s all based upon an award winning novel and was rumored to be an Oscar hopeful, which is the only reason I made an effort to see this film.  There was just no gelling reason for why any of this was taking place.  A lot of it felt like filler just to get to the Halftime Show, which is why most people probably saw it in the first place.  The war scenes themselves being the only electrifying reason to keep this story’s head above water, and mine from the movie theater’s arm rest.  

Billy Lynn struggles to readjust to civilian life suffering from PTSD after the war.  
It was nice to see the developing relationships as well as the ones already building, such as Billy’s love interest, those with the likes of his family and his Bravo Squad unit.  But none of it worked together as a cohesive unit to really unite an all around, fully fleshed out, well developed narrative that grabs our hearts and takes control telling us to feel whatever emotions we need to feel with this story.  

Thus angering me even more so than I didn’t think was possible.  Ben Affleck was disrespected by The Academy by not even receiving a nomination for Best Director when he was the clear winner.  They chose Ang Lee instead with Life of Pi (2012), a film not even in the ballpark of what Affleck did.  I could swallow this outcome if Ang Lee knocked it out of said ballpark and continued to do so thereafter (Billy Lynn).  But this just makes me even more upset about one of a handful when The Academy got it wrong.  As Billy Lynn can definitely wait for Netflix.  My hand on the Bible, quick pitch though, would be, “don’t even bother watching the baseball game, catch the final score (not even the highlights) on the evening news after work on Monday”.  

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (2016)
War, 110 Minutes, R
Based on the Novel By: Ben Fountain
Screenplay By: Jean-Christophe Castelli 
Directed By: Ang Lee
Cast: Joe Alwyn, Garrett Hedlund, Vin Diesel, Kristen Stewart, Chris Tucker, & Steve Martin 

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