The name Ang Lee is familiar to me as the Oscar winning director of ‘Life of Pi’. However when you look back on Lee’s filmography he has been the director for many other notable films. These include the likes of ‘Brokeback Mountain’, ‘Hulk’ & ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’. This made the lack of promotion for his latest film, ‘Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk’ all the more baffling.
With the absence of any real build up to the release of the film I wasn’t all that certain just what the film was about. Although after watching the first hour or so I would conclude that the film didn’t know either. The narrative here is pretty terrible. For the most part audiences aren’t given anything other than a group of soldiers finishing a victory tour of America. This culminates in an appearance at a Dallas Cowboys Thanksgiving halftime show. The film eventually splits into a dual narrative where we see some of the past events in the Middle East. This should have been the entire focus of the film as the scenes set at the football game were quite boring. The content of the narrative seemed contradictory at points too. One plot point sees the group of soldiers negotiating a price for their story, hoping to be acquired to make a movie. Much is said about this with the crux of it coming down to this, soldiers lives being Americas movie. This might have been a point with some credibility if it wasn’t being made in an American movie about war. At times I thought the narrative was quite disrespectful too. I’ll admit that I’m not fully aware of the political situation in American regarding the war. Therefore I can’t have a complete understanding of this topic. Nonetheless even the way in which the soldiers were portrayed at times seemed off.
It didn’t help that I wasn’t convinced by the chemistry or make-up of the group of soldiers either. I couldn’t buy into the concept of the film and performances were one of the many reasons why. Kristen Stewart & Garrett Hedlund aside I thought that all the other acting on show was average to poor. Vin Diesel was the main offender. If he isn’t in a tank top talking about family I find it hard to take him seriously in anything. As well as the cast members though I thought that a lot of the actual film-making was under par. The whole thing felt like a TV movie. I wasn’t a fan of the editing that was used when the dual narrative was in place. Futhermore, there was a really odd close up technique used when the performers were delivering their lines. This made me feel like I was watching an advertisement or a music video as the camera would take a very rigid square on direction towards the cast members.
‘Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk’ is an endurance test for more than just the titular character. The narrative is dull to say the least, getting its focus all wrong and as a result being one of the more random stories committed to film so far this year. The cast are largely unimpressive but even the best performers would struggle here. Lee has used some odd techniques to achieve his vision, unfortunately many do little other than obscure the engagement of his audience. Ultimately, all of these issues combine to make an inexcusably boring film with squandered potential everywhere you look.
Rating – 2/10
Question: What is your favourite Ang Lee film?
(Leave your answers in the comments section below!)
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