Director: Ang Lee
Cast: Joe Alwyn, Kristen Stewart, Chris Tucker, Garrett Hedlund, Vin Diesel, Steve Martin, Tim Blake Nelson
Runtime: 1 hr 50 mins
Rating: M18 (Sexual Scene & Coarse Language)
Released By: Sony Pictures Releasing International
Official Website: https://www.facebook.com/BillyLynnMovie/
Opening Day: 10 November 2016
Synopsis: Two-time Academy Award® winner Ang Lee brings his extraordinary vision to Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, based on the widely-acclaimed, bestselling novel. The film is told from the point of view of 19-year-old private Billy Lynn (newcomer Joe Alwyn) who, along with his fellow soldiers in Bravo Squad, becomes a hero after a harrowing Iraq battle and is brought home temporarily for a victory tour. Through flashbacks, culminating at the spectacular halftime show of the Thanksgiving Day football game, the film reveals what really happened to the squad – contrasting the realities of the war with America’s perceptions.
When we heard that Ang Lee’s latest work was going to make its world premiere at the New York Film Festival in a theatre that will showcase the film shot in 4K, native 3D at the ultra high rate of 120 frames per second, we got excited.
After all, this is the award winning director who brought us 2012’s Life of Pi, which many have thought to be unfilmable. To our pleasant surprise, Yann Martel’s story was brought to life on screen and remains one of the most touching films to date.
Lee may have challenged himself to visualise American novelist Ben Fountain’s 2012 novel by pushing the technological envelope, but we do not have the fortune to sit through the unprecedented movie going experience here.
The 110 minute movie’s protagonist is Billy Lynn, a 19 year old army private who returns home to the United Statesfrom the Iraq War. With his squad members, the group of army men is going on a series of victory tours The film centres on their appearance at a Thanksgiving Day football game’s halftime show, and how Billy’s story is progressively told in flashbacks.
Viewers here would just have to imagine what the experience would be like if we had the version presented in 3D and 4K resolution here. We will probably be closer to the action – the colourful pyrotechnics and large LED screens at the halftime show, the exhilarating showdowns in Iraq, as well as the extreme close ups of the characters can only figments of our imagination as we see Billy’s heartwrenching tale unfold.
Without the hyper real look that Lee wanted to show to the world, we are stripped down to the story. Trust the 62 year old to produce a slow burner (those familiar with his earlier works Pushing Hands and Eat Drink Man Woman would know) that takes its time to explore the repressed emotions hidden in Billy.
Newcomer Joe Alwyn plays the titular character – he is believable as a young man who is thrown in the middle of the unkind world outside the war zone, straight after a harrowing battle in Iraq. Garret Hedlund (Inside Llewyn Davis, Pan) is his steadfast squad leader, Chris Tucker (the Rush Hour franchise, Silver Linings Playbook) puts his fast talking skills to work as the guy who is trying to make a movie deal, Steve Martin takes on a serious role (It’s Complicated, Love the Coopers) as an opportunistic businessman, Kristen Stewart (the Twilight franchise, Café Society) is Billy’s anxious sister and VIn Diesel (the Fast and the Furious franchise, The Last Witch Hunter) is Billy’s sergeant who also makes time to give a philosophical talk involving Indian culture – which works because it is nicely handled by Lee.
In this day and age, the story is a relevant one. What lies behind the glitz and glamour which are painstakingly put together to celebrate war heroes? What happens before an inspiring movie about real life heroes is made? What are the deepest fears one goes through after experiencing the worst day in his life? This is a film that asks questions, and not necessarily providing ready answers for its viewers.
(We may not get to watch the film in 3D and 4K resolution, but there is still a story in this film that asks reflective questions relevant to today’s state of things)
Review by John LI