Returning home from a war battle that resulted in him being considered a hero, along with his gang, they receive in invite to be a part of the Halftime show of the 2004 Thanksgiving NFL game. But while young Billy Lynn has people flocking around him considering him a hero and praising him, his memories all come back to haunt him. Throughout the film we follow his thoughts and memories as it all leads to a decision that could change everything.
Ang Lee directs this post-war battle film that seeks to show the inner thoughts and feelings of those who fought in combat. In this film, it’s through the eyes of a 19-year-old young man. The film takes place primarily at the game, but cuts back to Billy’s memories of him overseas and to the previous day when he returned home to his family. This is a lot of cuts, but it works for the purpose of the themes for the film. There’s moments that trigger these memories for Billy until they all essentially come full circle in the end. While much of the material involving the themes of war and our soldiers may cause a stir for some, they are very thought provoking and ring pretty true. The different perspectives in which the people around Billy perceive him and the war are very familiar and seem like statements you would hear in your every day life. But more than anything the story is about the life of a solider and how quickly their world’s change after they come home. The film also features a very dazzling half time show sequence in terms of cinematography, sound, lighting, and even editing. And it’s in this scene that the film hits its major turning point. I won’t reveal too much about it, but it really gives insight to the mind of a solider and the effects of war. Admittedly however, there are moments where the film feels like it’s dragging to where it could have been much shorter. The primary scene at the football stadium lasts longer than it should have, at least the stuff leading up to the game. One thing I will say about this film is that Ang Lee really knew how to make it personal. By using close up shots of the cast staring directly into the camera during some of the more deeper conversations, it gives the audience a feeling as if you there with these characters, creating an emotional resonance that helps you become more invested.
What really makes this film the most affective is the brilliant performances by the cast. Newcomer Joe Alwyn turns in a star-making performance as the title character. For a new actor, it’s hard to believe that this young actor clearly understands his character, his emotions, and the characters’ actions. In the scenes where he becomes most emotional, you are feeling those emotions because Alwyn does an incredible job of expressing them and imprinting them onto you. Some of his best work comes in his scenes with Kristen Stewart who plays his sister. It’s these scenes that I found myself the most attached to. You can tell they have a stronger bond than either have with the rest of their family. Without giving anything away, the final scene with these two together is one of the most heart-wrenching movie scenes I’ve seen in a while to where I was really tearing up. By this point you’ve really felt their relationship and bond, and the performance these two have in that scene and the play off of each other is incredible. Alwyn also shares some deep and emotional scenes with his Lieutenant nicknamed Shroom, played by Vin Diesel (whom also provides a strong performance). Diesel isn’t the complete tough guy we see him in most commonly. Instead we see him actually providing some depth and emotion to his character as he becomes the parental figure Billy never had. The whole cast including Garrett Hedlund, Chris Tucker, and Steve Martin all do great job as well.
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk in a very thought-provoking film that while sometimes moves at slower pace, provides a great emotional ride with its characters and strong performances from all of its cast.