Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

billy-lynns-long-halftime-walk-joe-alswynOn a snowy Sunday afternoon, Jay and I found ourselves alone in a theatre watching Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk. Having just been reminded on the way to the theatre that this was two time Oscar-winning director Ang Lee’s latest, I thought it was particularly odd for the theatre to be empty, even accounting for the fact that Fantastic Beasts was playing simultaneously on four or five other screens at the multiplex. But by the end of the film I got it. This is just a terrible movie.  We shouldn’t have been there either.

I can’t even begin to list all the things that are wrong with this movie. Well, okay, since you asked, I can start:

  1. The extreme facial closeups are horrible.  You will hate every single one and they make up at least 25% of the movie’s run time. I’m not sure whether Vin Diesel or Steve Martin had more facetime but I didn’t ask to see up either one’s nostrils.  The closeups detract from the movie to the point that Jay and I were compelled to imitate the viewpoint over and over, while the movie was still running.  Naturally, it’s hilarious when we do it but it’s not at all funny on the screen.  Okay, maybe a little but I don’t think the humour was intended.
  2. The characters are lame. They are completely flat and consistently struggle with dialogue that is almost Herzogian in its ridiculousness.  The only positive was we got another catchphrase from it.  Now when I tell Jay I love her, she says, “Roger that”.  Thanks, Ang Lee!
  3. The story is pointless.  The movie has nothing interesting to say about war.  Which is really too bad because they almost had a moment during the Destiny’s Child halftime show to show how insensitive our society is to PTSD, but then the film just dropped that idea without any payoff whatsoever.  Billy is then given the option to be taken to a doctor to get treated for his PTSD but instead he chooses to return to Iraq, in order to impress a cheerleader.  Hooah!
  4. And then there’s the stadium security team that picks several fights with the soldiers for no discernible reason.  Was there a point to that?  Was there a point to any of it?  Because there should have been, but the writers couldn’t put a complete thought together in the movie’s two hour runtime.  There’s no meaning to be found anywhere.

By the way, this movie does not feature any actual members sad-hulkof Destiny’s Child so don’t get your hopes up, Beyhive.  They couldn’t even get Michelle.  But since the real Destiny’s Child 2004 Thanksgiving halftime show doesn’t feature Billy Lynn, I guess that’s only fitting.   I watched all 6:22 of that clip looking for him.  Just one more letdown.  This whole experience was a bigger disappointment than Ang Lee’s Hulk.  Sean sad.

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23 thoughts on “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

  1. ninvoid99

    I thought about seeing it because I like Ang Lee but the trailer was a total turn-off. Then I heard about the 120fps schtick and what happened at the New York Film Festival. I’ll wait for it on TV though I don’t think it will be any good. Enough w/ high-frame rate bullshit. If it isn’t going to work with narrative film then don’t fucking bother.

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    1. Sean Post author

      Given the size of the theatre we saw this in, I’m sure it did not have the technological bells and whistles that are the subject of so many complaints. I do not at all understand the desire for high frame rate in films generally and it is especially baffling that it was used in this movie, which has so many talky scenes and so little action.

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  2. Kevin

    This just sucks. I really had high hopes for this movie. Too soon to be fucking with this high-frame rate stuff anyway. There are only two movie theaters in the world that can push it.

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    1. Jay

      Yeah, and it’s a strange choice of film to start with it anyway. But we totally didn’t see it the way it’s “meant” to be seen, and very few will since Sony’s not updating any theatres. Not a great movie either way, a little weird tonally, like they just couldn’t quite decide which side of the story to tell.

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  3. fifi + hop

    On no – that sucks. I’ve never heard of this movie but I guess that makes sense. Never saw the Hulk either. But love some of his earlier work – the Ice Storm is one of my all time faves. I live in a small town in New York outside of NYC and Ang Lee lives in the same town – still have yet to spot him!

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    1. Sean Post author

      Ang Lee is an excellent director who has given us several movies that are on our DVD shelf and have been watched repeatedly. This movie would be a huge letdown from anyone but doubly so when coming from him.

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  4. Liz A.

    Yeah, I have not been hearing good things about this one. I, too, went and saw Fantastic Beasts instead. (I learned my lesson on that one, having gone to see, well, we won’t go into the horrible movie that I saw instead of Ransom. Not that Ransom was great, but it was better than the one I saw.)

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    1. Sean Post author

      Now I have to know what movie you saw instead of Ransom! Because I was super disappointed in that movie (didn’t see it in theatres, got great feedback from friends, watched it on VHS and wondered whether they had watched a different movie).

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  5. Jason

    Good review. I read the book, so the story didn’t bother me. The technical presentation was just okay because its too “experimental” as many won’t see how Lee envisioned the film to be. The characters were okay (some were good, some were mediocre). I was a bit disappointed with this movie.

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    1. Sean Post author

      Thanks for the answer to my question. You’re right, sometimes a great book just doesn’t translate to the screen (and once in a while it’s the reverse!).

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