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|Billy Lynns Long Halftime Walk
dir Ang Lee
scr Jean-Christophe Castelli
prd Ang Lee, Stephen Cornwell, Marc Platt, Rhodri Thomas
with Joe Alwyn, Garrett Hedlund, Kristen Stewart, Steve Martin, Chris Tucker, Makenzie Leigh, Ben Platt, Beau Knapp, Arturo Castro, Mason Lee, Brian 'Astro' Bradley, Ismael Cruz Cordova, Barney Harris, Vin Diesel
release US 11.Nov.16, UK 10.Feb.17
16/US TriStar 1h53
Performing for the crowd: Alwyn and Hedlund
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
Ang Lee deploys his usual visual inventiveness on this ambitious story about a young man grappling with the meaning of war and his role in it. Scenes are crisply packed with visual details, and events play out in sometimes unexpected angles. It's a shame the script feels rather trite, but there's enough meat in here to make the film worth a look.
In 2004, when video images of a vicious shootout in Iraq go viral, young Billy (Alwyn) becomes a media sensation. So his squad is called home for a tour of triumph, culminating at a Dallas football game's halftime show with Destiny's Child. Billy is accompanied by his sergeant (Hedlund) and six colleagues, who horse around as they look forward to meeting Beyonce. Meanwhile, a wheeler-dealer producer (Tucker) is working on a film deal with an entrepreneur (Martin), and Billy's sister (Stewart) is trying to talk him into leaving the military to deal with his PTSD.
The story plays out on three interwoven layers, as events in the stadium trigger memories of Billy's experiences both in Iraq and at home in rural Texas. It's rather tidy, looking at this young man as a professional soldier, public figure, brother and son. And even as first-time screenwriter Castelli pokes fun at cultural military cliches, his dialog is packed with them. So speeches are corny, despite passionate performances.
Alwyn is emotive and engaging as he interacts with his brothers in arms, all of whom are grieving the loss of a teammate (Diesel) while being championed as heroes. And Billy's family is equally wounded. The question is which he will choose, and whether he has the ability to see anything clearly. Characters are vivid, with especially strong scenes for Martin, Stewart and Leigh (as a cheerleader who takes a shine to Billy). But the filmmaking never quite lets the emotions take root.
As a director, Lee takes the audience right into each situation, aided by John Toll sharp photography. Some transitions between strands are forced, including a few odd fantasies. And the stiff dialog continually threatens to undermine the serious issues the story is exploring. But there's depth here if you can see through the distractions, and a thematic complexity that never preaches a specific interpretation. Instead, this is a film that asks you to pay attention to what's really going on in the world.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S
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© 2017 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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