Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk full movie review - This is the most clichéd, unrealistic and offensive war film I have seen in many years.
War movies are often based on a true story. Not so with "Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk" (R, 1:50).
Although there have been countless untold acts of heroism by American soldiers on the field of battle throughout history, this film isn't based on any of them. That, of course, would be perfectly fine ? IF the scenarios on which its story were built bore any relationship to reality. This movie, based on the 2012 novel of the same name by Ben Fountain, is sometimes described as satire. If that were accurate, it would explain some of the story's many inaccuracies. However, satire is supposed to be funny and/or provide some meaningful social commentary, neither of which are true here. Nope. Instead what two-time Oscar-winning director Ang Lee (!) and his screenwriter, Jean-Christophe Castelli give us is the most clichéd, unrealistic, uninspiring, pointless and offensive war film since the later "Rambo" movies.
Billy Lynn (newcomer Joe Alwyn) is a 19-year-old trouble-maker who enlisted in the Army under the good ol' "go to war or go to jail" option. As an infantryman in Iraq, he's a member of Bravo Squad and finds himself under the leadership of Sgt. Dime (Garrett Hedlund) and Staff Sgt. Shroom (Vin Diesel). During a 2004 firefight in which Bravo was trying to prevent some civilian journalists from being taken hostage by the enemy, Spec. Lynn commits an act of bravery that is captured by a news crew's video camera. Billy receives the Silver Star and Bravo Company is temporarily brought home from Iraq for a cross-country tour designed to build support for the war. They're being accompanied by a Hollywood producer (Chris Tucker), who is trying to put together a movie deal for them, which may be financed by a certain NFL team owner, played by Steve Martin. Bravo's tour culminates in an appearance during the halftime show of a Thanksgiving Day NFL game in Dallas, Texas, after which they are to return to Iraq.
Billy is conflicted. He had thought of himself as a poor excuse for a soldier, but ended up exhibiting extraordinary bravery. He finds it odd that he is being honored for what he calls the worst day of his life. Billy isn't much of a ladies' man and isn't very religious, but suddenly finds himself being hit on by an NFL cheerleader (Makenzie Lee) who talks a lot about her faith. Most of Billy's family is very proud of his service and his heroism, but his sister / best friend, Kathryn (Kristen Stewart), is against the war, and especially, her brother's continued participation in it. He's exhibiting signs of PTSD and she implores him to refuse to return to Iraq with his unit. She has a doctor from the VA call Billy at the stadium during the first half of that Thanksgiving Day football game to ask him to come in for treatment immediately after the game. Kathryn even plans to pick Billy up from the stadium and take him straight to the doctor.
Many military veterans reading this review (as well as plenty of civilians with common sense) have probably already spotted serious problems with the plausibility of this story, but let me help fill in the gaps. Besides the implausibility of these subplots happening ON Thanksgiving Day, even more bothersome is the way many of the characters are portrayed. Without getting into a lot of the details (some of which would qualify as spoilers), everyone who supports the Iraq War is shown as a simpleton, civilians who don't seem to care either way are shown as brutes and the soldiers of Bravo are shown to be immature, undisciplined and extremely rude, especially for troops on a public relations tour. In fact, several things that happen in this movie would have landed people in jail, but are instead just glossed over as no big deal.
This movie is likely to offend soldiers, their families, anyone who supports the troops, even people who oppose U.S. military action overseas and anyone who has ever worked in Hollywood, for an NFL team or in an NFL stadium. Furthermore, with few exceptions (such as Alwyn), the acting is shaky, the set pieces are unprofessional and the movie says nothing new or insightful about the American wars of the 21st century. If you'd like to see a recent war movie that IS realistic, inspiring, original, well-written, well-shot and well-acted, check out "Hacksaw Ridge". Best to let Billy Lynn take his "Long Halftime Walk" all by himself. "D"