The aftermath of war

REVIEW: Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

(MA15+) Joe Alwyn, Kristen Stewart, Garrett Hedlund

Billy Lynn’s (Joe Alwyn) life has taken a surreal turn. Only a few months earlier, he was fighting alongside Bravo Squad in Iraq. Through the challenges of the heat and conflicting culture, he and his squad served the people of Iraq in 2004. But after an intense battle with insurgents, he is rewarded a Silver Star for bravery and his team is brought back to the US for a publicity ‘Victory Tour’. As they stop over in Dallas to be part of the half-time entertainment show at an American Football game, Bravo Squad must confront the culture shock of being back in the land of the free — as well as confront their personal battlefield demons.

Celebrated director Ang Lee (Life of Pi) brings an acclaimed novel to life in a cutting-edge filmmaking manner. Through bringing Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk to the big screen, he provides a study of how these soldiers have lived a lifetime in just a few short years. The result of Lee’s endeavours, though, is to present a hard lesson in trying to do too much with one film. While the quality of production and the strength of story is apparent, the implementation of Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk proves to be where it comes undone.

Novelist Ben Fountain provides a fascinating view into the life of a soldier, but there is a disconnect in getting it to the screen. Ang Lee’s storytelling abilities always include a philosophical and non-linear manner, but when he is at his best, things come together effectively in the end. With Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, Lee’s signature style almost becomes his undoing.

If the audience is able to follow along with the storyline throughout the multitude of flashbacks, dream sequences and stark realities of this 24 hour period in Billy’s life, it can be a fascinating journey into a young warrior’s psyche. Unfortunately, it can be difficult for most of us to grasp what is going on within this spiritual quagmire.

Fountain’s take on the minds of young men exposes what happens within this testosterone-driven realm. It is confronting and more real than many want to admit, but most men would understand the struggles of Bravo squad. Lee’s attempt to translate this on the big screen does have its difficulties, but the overall experience lands some key body blows which will appeal to select parts of the viewing public. Also, the acting support is spot-on for this effort. Garrett Hedlund, Vin Diesel, Kristen Stewart and a rare performance by Chris Tucker provide newcomer Joe Alwyn, in the lead role, with the depth needed to showcase Lee’s ability to get the most out of his cast. Even though Alwyn is an acting novice, he does hold his own amongst this seasoned cast.

Despite almost being totally undone by its technical excesses, this is not a complete misfire. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk has some notable highlights and still carries some of the magic of this talented filmmaker. It may not be his best work, but it is still a film worth seeing, analysing and pondering some of life’s bigger issues.

 

What are some of the bigger questions to consider from this film?

“I am the way and the truth and the life, no-one comes to the Father, except through me.” John 14:6

If you were to do a study of many of Ang Lee’s films, a consistent theme is the notion of many roads leading to God. The challenge within Lee’s construct is that many of the world religions would disagree with this philosophy. Trying to equate the various world religions can prove to be a fool’s errand and best left to the multiple articles written on this subject. Yet, it is still something worth consideration: Which of these different world views is right on the subject of how to truly connect with God?

How can you know?

Study, interview people of faith and ask God for direction. If taken seriously, it will be a journey that will prove to be life-changing.

Where to begin the journey into discovering how to connect with God in the Bible:

The biographies of Jesus: Matthew, Mark Luke and John

 

Russell Matthews works for City Bible Forum Sydney and is a film blogger




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