Review: Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk about mission to make America feel good about itself

Young British actor Joe Alwyn in Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk. Picture: Mary Cybulski/TriStar

Young British actor Joe Alwyn in Billy Lynns Long Halftime Walk. Picture: Mary Cybulski/TriStar - Credit: ©TriStar Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

Oscar-winning director Ang Lee wartime drama seen through the eyes of a teenage soldier who becomes a hero to his entire country.

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk (15)

**

In this Iraq War homecoming drama, seen through the eyes of a 19-year-old Army specialist from Texas, a squad of hero soldiers are on the final day of a two week promotional tour, preparing to appear with Destiny's Child in the halftime show at a Dallas Cowboys football game.

They are on a propaganda mission to make America feel good about itself; the film's mission is the exact opposite.

During a tour of duty in Iraq, Bravo Company led by Sergeant David Dime (Garrett Hedlund) becomes embroiled in a gun fight with the enemy. Billy Lynn (Joe Alwyn) is caught on camera dragging his colleague Sergeant Virgil Breem (Vin Diesel) to safety and the footage goes viral. Back home in America, Billy and fellow members of Bravo Company are feted as heroes and they return home briefly for a carefully orchestrated nationwide victory tour.

While the team's beleaguered PR, Josh (Ben Platt), tries to keep the event on track and meet the expectations of the team's owner, Norm Oglesby (Steve Martin), Billy receives messages from his older sister Kathryn (Kristen Stewart), who believes she can get him honourably discharged so he doesn't have to return to the battlefield.

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Two-time Oscar-winning director Ang Lee's film isn't a protest about the war, so much as an attack on the idea that the American way of life has any claim to moral superiority over the nations it attacks.

As is the norm in these films, the returning soldiers find it hard to connect with the folks back home who are falling over themselves to express their gratitude and admiration for what they are doing over there.

Now, the values and rituals of American life – the T&A evangelicalism of the cheerleaders; the patriotic gluttony of the football crowd; the fervoured, almost fetishistic devotion to the flag; the fluctuating market value of their heroism – are just as alien to them as those of the enemy they are fighting oversees.

Billy Lynn is based on a novel, obviously, but it is so talky it might as well been adapted from a play.

The young stars perform well (you'd never believe Alwyn is a Londoner).

Lee uses lots of close up and occasionally he has performers talk directly into the camera, which is always tough to do and emphasizes the feeling that some of the bigger name performers often look like they might have needed another take or two to really do justice to their lines.

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