Susan Granger’s review of “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” (Sony Pictures)
With a filmography that includes “Brokeback Mountain,” “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and “Life of Pi,” among others, Ang Lee is obviously an insightful director. He’s also innovative, utilizing new, high-tech technology in “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk.”
Problem is: this time, he stumbles.
Adapted from Ben Fountain’s 2012 novel about a 19 year-old soldier who, while participating in the sensory overload of a lavish Destiny’s Child football halftime show, re-lives his combat experience in Iraq, trying to save his commanding officer (Vin Diesel) and questioning the concept of heroism that’s been thrust upon him.
Jittery William Lynn (newcomer Joe Alwyn) and members of his Bravo Company have been brought to Dallas, Texas, for the 2004 Cowboys’ Thanksgiving game, as wannabe film producer Albert (Chris Tucker) tries to wrangle a movie deal with wealthy team owner Norm Oglesby (Steve Martin).
Meanwhile, Lynn’s distraught, guilt-riddled sister Kathryn (Kristen Stewart) tries to talk him out of returning for another tour-of-duty. Complicating matters further, Lynn connects with Faison (Mackenzie Leigh), a devoutly Christian cheerleader.
Reminiscent of Kathryn Bigelow’s “The Hurt Locker,” it delves into Lynn’s survivor’s guilt and PTSD, utilizing numerous flashbacks, as part of a band-of-brothers, men who have been deeply scarred by emotional trauma, yet bonded by battle.
Digitally filmed by cinematographer John Toll in 3-D at 4K resolution and a rate of 120 frames per second, it produces clear, crisp, ultra-realistic imagery, particularly in the foreground, while the background is out-of-focus.
It may be a technological marvel, but only two theaters in the United States – one in Manhattan and one in Los Angeles – are equipped to accommodate this R&D advancement.
In addition, this process requires the actors to forgo make-up, revealing every line, wrinkle and artifice. Miscast Steve Martin falls victim, his superficiality exposed. But straight-out-of-drama-school British Joe Alwyn makes an impressive screen debut with a convincing Texas drawl.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” is a fumbling 5, riddled with shallow dialogue, inconsistent satire and stilted pacing.