Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk: Review


If it weren’t for the fact that his name is plastered all over the marketing, you’d probably be surprised that Ang Lee was responsible for bringing Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk to the screen. The visionary, academy award-winning director has become renowned for his stunning imagery and distinctive style through films such as Life of Pi. And it’s with this in mind that his latest work, an adaptation of Ben Fountain’s original novel, feels painfully ordinary for the most part. 

Technically, Lee does continue to push the boundaries of cinematic technology here. The first film to be shot in the projection frame rate of 120 frames per second, with the intention of creating a completely immersive experience, there’s no denying that it looks great. There’s a digital fluidity to the story, a crispness that works to the advantage of John Toll’s cinematography. But, unfortunately, that’s where the film’s technological worth comes to an end. 

Part of the issue is the fact that, in the grand scheme of the film’s story about a group of returned American soldiers, honoured for their bravery in battle, war actually plays a small part in the proceedings. Thematically, it is of course paramount to the plot which deals with PTSD and the morality of battle, but if the goal was to create a visceral experience that puts you directly in the line of fire, the film fails to do so. 

Particularly when compared to the recent Hacksaw Ridge, a war biopic that is genuinely harrowing and brutal to watch, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk doesn’t have the impact it should. It’s certainly not the greatest advertisement for the format, and, a few fine moments and performances aside, it is immediately forgettable. It’s far from dreadful, but I would have expected much more from a director of such high calibre as Lee. 

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