For a ‘war movie’, “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” doesn’t march through it’s (nearly) two hour long run-time as much as it meanders through one day in the life of its title character. That man’s name is Billy Lynn, a nineteen year-old private who is being hailed a hero after a battle he fought in Iraq was captured on camera and viewed by millions. Now he and his company have been shipped back home to the US for a promotional tour, culminating at the halftime show of a Thanksgiving Day football game.
Lynn is played by Joe Alwyn, a newcomer who is great in the title role. He captures the innocence of his nineteen year old character yet possesses the presence needed to carry the film. While he’s supported by a strong cast of A-listers (Vin Deisel plays fellow soldier Shroom, Kristen Stewart gets a few brief stints on camera as Billy’s sister Kathryn), the use of an unknown actor gives the role an authenticity that would likely have been lost on a big name, no matter how capable.
However not even the film’s abundance of extreme close ups of Billy’s emotional face could inject this film with the power you feel it could have. Indeed director Ang Lee sets out to say a lot with this project – about heroism, fame, camaraderie, family, patriotism and the ethics of war – however it is so concerned with saying everything that it ultimately says nothing. Had the filmmakers stuck to just few of those themes, they could have made a film that left us feeling moved, even inspired. Unfortunately, the film only leaves us feeling unsure as to what it was really about.