Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk Review
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk tells the story of the Bravo squad, a platoon comprised of very young men who were deployed to Iraq. While in Iraq, they managed to come out unharmed from the battle of Al-Ansakar Canal, a fierce firefight in Iraq. This battle happened to be caught on camera, putting them on stage for the world to see. Bravo is at the end of the very long nationwide tour to celebrate their bravery. Billy Lynn, in particular, is seen as a hero for noticing what was happening to their sergeant and springing into action. During this last day, we are given a behind the scenes look at their trip as well as flashbacks to their time in Iraq.
The film is beautifully shot and has some great imagery throughout. The colors are vivid and mesmerizing. The use of the flashbacks between Iraq and the present day puts a visual emphasis on the other-worldly nature to their experiences and their isolation and distance from what surrounds them. I saw the film in the tradition 2D regular frame rate, and I’m not sure if that is why, but some of the panning shots were very blurry, and you weren’t able to focus on them very well.
The film itself isn’t sure what it wants to be. It is a comedy, war film, drama, and action movie all blended together. There is some great commentary on how we treat our soldiers. The idea that on the surface, people support the troops, but when it comes to actual action or money, we fall short and abandon them at their time of need. The scenes at the halftime show were particularly moving for me. When the fireworks and pyrotechnics started going off on stage it further demonstrated the insensitivity that the general public has to the struggles of the soldiers when they’re attempting to acclimate to the real world again. We don’t think about these things and how much these soldiers are impacted by their experience overseas. The film also comments on the exploitation of minorities, the impoverished, and delinquents being targeted as potential soldiers, knowing that they don’t have any better options.
The performances in the film were hit and miss which added to the confusing tone of the film. Garrett Hedlund was pretty bad in this role. His performance came off as stoic and robotic. I understand he is an officer in the army, but the scenes seemed to hold no emotional value for him at all. Joe Alwyn as Billy gave a decent first film performance. He had a great emotional depth to his character. He was multifaceted and led the audience to believe in his character and in his struggle. The relationship between Shroom (Vin Diesel) and Billy was interesting and provided even more emotional depth to Billy’s character.
Perhaps the problem with the film is that this story just happens to make a better book. The adaptation may have lost why so many have loved the book. The book shines because of personality and conviction infused in words, but the film lacks that specific and personal tone, which leaves the audience wanting a little more. There are great elements to the film, and I do recommend seeing it, but fans of the book will more than likely be disappointed.