WARNING: The following review contains spoilers, I’m telling you now so you don’t pretend to be outraged later.
Due to a series of unfortunate events involving people not knowing when to shut their stupid mouths, I was left without a film to review this week. So I decided to go back to a film I missed the week before called Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk. It’s probably too soon for me to look at another war film seeing how Hacksaw Ridge completely redefined the genre in the last couple of weeks. None to less, with a name cast, notable director, and literally fuck all left for me to do this week, I decided to listen to what the film had to say and boy does it have ALOT to say.
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk begins with footage of a soldier defending his superior in battle and fighting off enemy combatants in Iraq. This footage goes viral and turns an Army Unit known as Bravo Squad into instant American heroes. To celebrate their story, Bravo Squad is sent on a two-week nationwide victory tour where they do various media appearances which end with them being honored at the Dallas Cowboys Thanksgiving Day Game.
A few notes about the production of the film and the way it was made. Filming took place in Atlanta, Georgia which is why what was supposed to be Texas stadium looks a lot like the Georgia Dome. You’ll probably ask yourself ‘Why couldn’t they film this in Dallas?’ It’s probably because Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones won’t be happy about his portrayal in the film. Steve Martin plays Norm Oglesby who is basically Jerry Jones with a different name to avoid lawsuits. One of the major subplots of the film is that Hollywood Film Producer, Albert played by Chris Tucker, is trying to sell the film rights to their story with a major studio. Oglesby agrees to make the movie but only paying $5500 per soldier after they were promised $100K each, Oglesby refuses to pay more which labels him the villain because he’s a billionaire who can obviously pay more. However, money isn’t really the big issue here, it’s the respect for our veterans.
The story is focused on Billy Lynn, who becomes the center of America’s attention for his actions but deep down he doesn’t see himself as the hero everyone portrays him to be. His anti-Iraq war sister played by Kristen Stewart, wants him to stay home fearing for his safety. Billy himself is unsure whether he wants to go back because he lost the only real father figure in his life played by Vin Diesel in battle. It’s a void for a young man that’s difficult to deal with it and plays into what many US soldiers go through when they return home from duty. The film presents dialogue straight from the point of view of the soldiers, giving them a voice they normally don’t have. Many times the actors talk directly into the camera and it’s like the soldiers are talking directly to the audience telling them what they don’t get to say in public.
Sports fans can relate to this, there is always a point in the game where the stadium honors the men and women of our armed forces. We all clap for 30 seconds but you don’t know anything about the person’s background, what they did, and how their actions affected his or hers love ones. Billy Lynn gives you a look into the life of these soldiers from their perspective. Many of these guys are just kids, some with families of their own. You see the way they banter with each other and how they perceive what they do for their country which gives them more depth. The centerpiece of the film builds to a simple Halftime performance with Bravo squad front and center to be honored. Bravo doesn’t feel honored and is disrespected at the way they are used as props for the show. Most of the people behind the scenes are outright hostile to the soldiers for being there. The film is a sociological perspective on issues of war, society, and patriotism. More importantly, it exposes the differences between true patriotism vs. hollow patriotism. The people who truly support the troops vs those who think supporting the troops is simply an avenue to virtue signal whether they realize it or not.
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk is a film I recommend if you have anyone in your life that is serving or has served in the military. While the writing is a bit basic and the acting isn’t strong from many of the name actors, the film will provide you with more respect and perspective about your fellow citizens who dedicate their lives physically and emotionally for what they think is right. Jerry Jones might not be happy but I hate the Cowboys anyway, so who cares what he thinks? Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk will have you thinking a bit more and probably should encourage ways to support our armed forces in better ways than standing and clapping.
OFFICIAL RATING: ***
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