Review: Walk on by ‘Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk’
Without the film’s experimental visuals, Ang Lee’s film is stilted and strangely flat
“Billy Lynn’s Halftime Walk” is a long walk that goes nowhere in particular.
Ang Lee’s jumbled film about a vet returning from the Iraq War was shot in an experimental high frame rate that renders it photo-realistic. Or at least it’s supposed to: the technology is so ahead of its time that only a few theaters in America are able to project it the way it was meant to be seen, and everyone else gets a theme park attraction minus the theme park.
There are scenes where characters are filmed in extreme close-up that, without the benefit of the film’s full visual firepower, are disruptive to the narrative. Rather than being wowed by the visuals you’ll wonder, “Why is Steve Martin so close to my face?”
The rest of the film isn’t strong enough to stand on its own. Newcomer Joe Alwyn barely registers as the title character, a war hero who returns home along with his troop to be paraded in front of a massive audience at the Dallas Cowboys’ Thanksgiving Day game. They’re fast-talked by an agent-type (Chris Tucker) who promises a cash-in on their story and get to rub elbows with a stand-in for Cowboys owner Jerry Jones (Martin) before being used as props in a halftime show alongside Destiny’s Child (played by stand-ins; sorry, Beyoncé fans).
There are flashbacks to the war — Vin Diesel plays a soldier who dies in battle — and scenes with Lynn at home (Kristen Stewart plays his war-protesting sister). But everything feels stilted and strangely flat.
As Lynn’s hard-nosed, square-jawed sergeant, Garrett Hedlund scores the film’s only points. Otherwise, this is not a walk to remember.
‘Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk’
Rated R for language throughout, some war violence, sexual content, and brief drug use
Running time: 110 minutes