Reasons why this movie is failing to make any box-office impact in the US or worldwide (except China): 1.How may people are interested in seeing the war in Iraq? 2.A fictional protagonist/sort of war hero? 3.The title of this film is just terrible, i get it’s from the book, but you tell people what you’re seeing and they’ll look dumbfounded.
‘Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk’ follows Billy Lynn and the rest of Bravo Team who return to America from Iraq and are preparing to walk out during the halftime show of a football game, but Lynn begins questioning his position when revisiting his traumatic experiences and being conflicted between choosing his family or his war duties. The film is directed by Ang Lee (Life of Pi) and stars Garrett Hedlund, Joe Alwyn and a long list of talented big name supporting characters. It has very promising intentions from a story perspective and is overall very well acted but it is poorly executed through its pacing and editing specifically. The movie also does a very poor job at introducing the characters’ backstories and doesn’t end up giving you much insight into what they did in the war to be so celebrated.
The cast associated with this film is one of the main reasons some people would have actually decided to check it out, but all of the big name actors, are in very limited roles and don’t have much impact on the film overall. Steve Martin, Chris Tucker, Kristen Stewart, and Vin Diesel all have supporting roles in the film and considering what their characters do in the film (which isn’t much), their involvement in the film i believe was just to give the marketing team some star power to lead with on the posters. That being said all the performances are very well acted across the board including by some of bravo team, but the standouts really are Garrett Hedlund and acting debutant Joe Alwyn who does his best to give the film some weight. The chemistry between these two on screen was maybe the strongest aspect of the film as the relationship between these two and the level of respect they have for each other and their uniform was pretty cool to watch. It added to the emotion of the film and the inner struggles of Billy Lynn who is ultimately fighting between choosing his team or his family.
This struggle between choosing war-life or family-life was a strong conflict that lasts throughout the entire film and becomes a major part of Lynn’s story but it does get lost in a bunch of other smaller storylines along the way until it pays off in the end. Being a fictional story, making this feel as real as possible was going to be essential in keeping people engaged and wanting to care about the characters and the situations they’re in. Now for the most part, i would say this whole thing seems pretty realistic and grounded in the realities of war and the exploration of PTSD. But, there are sections of the film that i would say definitely feel very Hollywoodized where they are built up to try and gain more audience engagement. Only thing is, they work against the film because it ends up seeming unrealistic and at times pretty silly. There is this whole weird element of the story that has Chris Tucker and Steve Martin tied up in it where the characters keep on discussing the idea of turning the Bravo Team story into a movie. It was probably adapting that from the book but it’s a very meta thing in the film that does take you out of the main story at hand that is focusing on Lynn and his struggles. And there is something very late in the film involving a feud with a security team that was very stupid and comical and didn’t need to be there.
The biggest striking issues were by far the overall pacing and the distinctively messy editing in of flashbacks throughout the film. It had a very odd pacing where it had moments specifically in the middle of the film that had quite a bit going on and it moved quickly through them, but then during the rest of the film there was a lot of downtime with nothing of too much substance actually going on. In terms of the way they handled the flashbacks of war scenes, i feel like it would have been much better if the whole film was arranged in chronological order or if the flashbacks related in some way to the current day. Because what you notice is that the war-set scenes that the film flashes back to don’t have any correlation with what is happening in the present day, they feel very randomly thrown in there and it was more jarring than it was insightful. The scenes themselves were fine, not very horrifying or impactful in any way, and that was mainly due to them being broken up into little patches here and there.
So in the end i would say there really is no reason to check out ‘Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk’ because lets be honest, you weren’t even slightly considering it before. The strong performances and initially promising plot aren’t enough to warrant a viewing as the editing, pacing and execution of the story elements doesn’t pay off in any satisfying way. If you want a better war drama exploring PTSD, try 2014’s ‘American Sniper’ starring Bradley Cooper, a much more entertaining and tragic character film.