You know those trailers that constantly crop up in every movie that you see? Sort of like a little kid screaming, “LOOK AT ME!!! LOOK AT ME!!! GIVE ME ATTENTION!!!” That’s what the trailer for this movie was for me. I was so… damn… sick of it. And the same trailer too! It’s one thing to constantly see a Marvel film or Star Wars constantly playing its trailers because, A) they’re highly anticipated films that are reliably entertaining, and B) they change their trailers around every few months or so, so there’s variety in imagery. I’m surprised I don’t have this trailer’s lines down word for word.
But let’s get past that. What do I actually think of this movie? It looks… predictable and done before, so I’m not particularly excited or all that interested. But there’s certain aspects that certainly have me cocking an eyebrow. First of all, the star of the film is brand spanking new. This is his first film, short or otherwise. Hell of a dice roll, but successful films with an unknown core cast do exist. And… for whatever God-given reason, director Ang Lee wanted to shoot this movie in 120 frames per second… in 3D, at 4K HD resolution. What does that mean for those of you who are not film savvy? Hell if I know. I imagine it’s like watching a movie on the Blu-Ray quality on steroids, so it’s probably worth checking out just to see how it holds up compared to a standard viewing. But storywise, yeah, I’m not leaping in anticipation. A military man comes home, is celebrated as a hero, but doesn’t feel like one. Isn’t that every war drama that doesn’t focus on the war itself? I swear, I’m docking a point off this movie if the line “the real heroes are dead” or any of its cousin lines are uttered.
So let’s take a look at the cast. As I said, Joe Alwyn is the star and he’s making his debut in film. Congrats, sir. He’s got a couple of films on the horizon next year, THE SENSE OF AN ENDING (2017) and KEEPERS (2017), so let’s see what direction his career’s going to fly. We also have Kristen Stewart, known for CERTAIN WOMEN (2016), the Twilight franchise, and ADVENTURELAND (2009). If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times, so I’ll say it a thousand and one times: I don’t have a problem with her as an actress. She sucked in the Twilight movies because the Twilight movies sucked and no one would have been good in them. She’s been a good, even great actress before, time to let go and give her a solid chance. Now here’s a couple of names I haven’t see in a while: Steve Martin and Chris Tucker. Martin used to be a funny-man giant in the late 80’s and much of the 90’s, thanks to such great films as PLANES, TRAINS, AND AUTOMOBILES (1987) and both Father of the Bride films. But then by the new millennium, his career took a nasty tumble, having been in more and more bad films, like the Cheaper By the Dozen films and the Pink Panther films. Every so often he’d do something decent, like I hear SHOPGIRL (2005) had some solid reviews and he’d written both the novel and the screenplay he adapted from. But those were pretty far in between and have mostly faded away. Although, I was tickled by his performance in HOME (2015). To see his name again, and in a dramatic film, that’s… pretty nice to see, actually. If nothing else, I’m excited to see him. And Tucker, wow. I mean I know he’s done some stand-up, but what has he been doing since the Rush Hour film franchise? SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK (2012), fine, but I had to really remember who he was. He wasn’t the star after all. Well, a RUSH HOUR 4 is trying to get made and he’s probably in talks to return, but who knows where that’s going to go. Did the TV show do well? I doubt it, if they’re trying to make a fourth installment. Personally, I’d rather see him return in a Fifth Element sequel. Final notes of the cast are Vin Diesel (THE LAST WITCH HUNTER , the Fast and Furious franchise, and SAVING PRIVATE RYAN ) and Garrett Hedlund (PAN , TRON: LEGACY , and INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS ).
Now for the crew. Directing is Ang Lee, known for THE LIFE OF PI (2012), BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN (2005), and CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON (2000). Penning the screenplay is Jean-Christophe Castelli, also making his debut as a screenwriter. Congrats, sir. Co-composing the music is Jeff and Mychael Danna, both known for STORKS (2016), THE GOOD DINOSAUR (2014), and LAKEVIEW TERRACE (2008). Finally director of photography is John Toll, known for IRON MAN 3 (2013), TROPIC THUNDER (2008), and THE LAST SAMURAI (2003).
Overall, it looks pretty unimpressive, but I’ve been surprised before. Let’s see how this goes. This is my honest opinion of BILLY LYNN’S LONG HALFTIME WALK.
Billy Lynn (Joe Alwyn) and his squad have returned home after a harrowing incident overseas that was highly publicized in America. Their mission involved getting ambushed by the enemy and a beloved friend of their’s was killed in action. The team tours around America, finally returning to their hometown on the verge of a big football game and they’re slated to appear in the halftime show with Destiny’s Child. All the while, Billy recounts his time in Iraq and his time with his older sister Kathryn (Kristen Stewart), and family in general.
DISCLAIMER: I have not seem this movie in it’s more advanced 120 FPS, 3D, 4K HD. My review will be completely object from that.
It’s completely forgettable. As I write this review, I’d seen it over a week ago and from all the notes I wrote down in my phone, I don’t remember half of it. I wrote down how awkward the character intros were, but I don’t remember what was said to rub me the wrong way. This is because the characters are unbelievably bland. If you thought 13 HOURS (2016) had indiscernible characters, then this is the young adult version of that. The only reason you remember Billy at all is because the camera focuses on him throughout the flick. Beyond him, nearly every other character has the same personality: ball-busting and laughing because men laugh at their own fantasies of getting laid by celebrities. Maybe you’d remember their team leader Sergeant Dime (Garrett Hedlund), who’s essential role is authoritatively saying, “Shut up, you annoying characters!”
I guess I do remember Stewart as well due to her being the only real character that has a personality. Kat is heavily against the war and feels guilty that her car accident caused Billy to enlist. She strongly believes that Billy is suffering from PTSD, but he won’t open up about what happened. So she’s constantly trying to convince him to see a shrink and get help and not return to active duty when his tour through America is over. This plot thread is a shame because Stewart is really giving her all to the performance, especially at the end. But it’s all rendered useless because… whether or not Lee failed at directing or Alwyn failed to take direction, I never got the sense that Billy was troubled by the battle. He’s quiet, sure, so maybe that’s supposed to be all the signification we need to piece together that’s he’s traumatized, but it’s pretty thin at best.
I guess Steve Martin isn’t all that bad either. In fact, it’s really only him and Stewart that stand out but everyone else is bland and forgettable. I suppose in the grand scheme of things it’s not the worst movie I’ve ever seen, but man, what a waste of a potentially good story.
My honest rating for BILLY LYNN’S LONG HALFTIME WALK: a weak 3/5