Review: Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk
Ang Lee's latest concerns a subject that I don't think I could ever truly wrap my head around from a personal standpoint, but it is a tremendous work. Both grand and personal in equal measure, Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk is a cinematic journey like few others.
The story of a platoon of American soldiers on a "Victory Tour" across America and taking place over one afternoon in a Dallas football stadium, the picture is heavy with flashbacks. Jumping back to both Billy at home and in Iraq, there are intense moments throughout. As powerful as the Iraq sequences are, the more nerve wracking might be Billy when he visits home for Thanksgiving. Reunited with his sister, played by Kristen Stewart, in another stellar supporting role, their relationship is the emotional crux of the film.
Although I couldn't see this in HFR, even in standard, I've never seen a more crisp and immediate picture. John Toll's cinematography relies on numerous close-ups paired with sweeping camera movements. Actors are made to address the camera directly during dialogue, bringing to mind Tak Fujimoto's unforgettable work on Silence of the Lambs. The viewer is never not engaged with the proceedings.
Joe Alwyn, who plays the lead is going to have a big career ahead of him. He brings a passion and believability to the titular Billy Lynn, it's shocking that this is his debut, you'd think he's been doing this for a while. The supporting cast is aces as well, from a tough as nails Garrett Hedlund (Tron: Legacy) as Lynn's superior, to Steve Martin and Chris Tucker, both playing against type. Vin Diesel however deserves special mention, as this is his best performance in years, possibly since The Iron Giant.
Recently, Lee has been pushing forward the boundaries of what a film can be or even do. He continues that trend here and to great effect, pushing technology forward without sacrificing story or character (James Cameron, take note.) Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk may not be for everyone, but it's certainly a picture with a lot of heart and a lot to say, in addition to being technically impressive. Lee has made better films, The Ice Storm or Lust: Caution among them, but this one will stick with you for a good while.